Article published in Denis Reno's Weightlifting Newsletter January 27, 2005

Coach Hatch Gayle&Charlie.jpg (209351 bytes)
Gayle Hatch, Proud Coach of 2004 Men's                         Gayle Hatch pictured above with YMCA National Champion
       USA Olympic Weightlifting Team                                                                  Charles Heard (1970)

"Gayle Hatch the Early Days"


Jimmy Peyton

 Coach Hatch served as head coach for the 2004 USA Men’s Olympic Weightlifting Team that competed in Athens Greece. Baton Rouge TV’s sports newscaster, Bruce Webber once said, "Gayle Hatch is to Baton Rouge weightlifting what Vince Lombardi was to Greenbay football".

On August 26, 2004, the American Flag was presented to Coach Hatch. The flag was flown over the US Capitol at the request of Congressman Richard Baker. The flag was given as a salute to Coach Hatch for being named the USA Men’s Olympic Weightlifting Team Coach and for being a role model to our American youth and for his outstanding leadership as a citizen. In 1988, Coach Hatch helped Congressman Richard Baker draft parts of legislation that created a new felony classification for the non-prescription sale of anabolic steroids.

On October 15, 2004 Coach Hatch was inducted into Northwestern State University’s "Long Purple Line". It is the university’s most prestigious honor and recognizes former students whose career accomplishments enhance the reputation of the school. Northwestern State is one hundred and twenty years old and only sixty-five alumni have received this honor.

Coach Hatch graduated from Baton Rouge’s Catholic High School in 1957 where he was a star athlete in football, basketball and track. He was also named to the Catholic-All America Basketball Team. He is the schools only MVP award winner in all three sports. In the 1957 state basketball playoffs, he averaged thirty-five points and twenty-three rebounds per game. Louisiana has produced some great basketball players including Bob Pettit, Karl Malone and Robert Parrish, but none have topped that performance. Coach Hatch is a member of the CHS Grizzly Greats Hall of Fame. On May 31, 2002, Catholic High School named its new state of the art weight-room The Gayle Hatch Strength Training Center.

At Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana, Hatch stared in basketball and set numerous school records including a forty-four point, twenty rebound game against Kentucky Wesleyan. He set a still standing school record by making eighteen out of twenty-one field goal attempts. Hatch’s record stood as the collegiate all division field goal percentage record for twenty attempts or more until Bill Walton made twenty-one of twenty-two against Memphis State in 1973. Coach Hatch is a member of Northwestern State Athletic Hall of Fame. Back in high school, the sports writers nick named Coach Gayle (Goose) Hatch after the Globetrotter’s most famous player Reese (Goose) Tatum. The nickname stuck throughout his career.

In 1961, Coach was a first round draft pick of the Chicago Majors of the American Basketball League. It is ironic that the owner of the Majors, Abe Saperstein, was also the owner of the Globetrotters.

At a banquet that was held to honor Coach in 2004 in Baton Rouge, Dale Brown, the former great basketball coach of LSU established a basketball scholarship from his foundation in the name of Gayle Hatch at Northwestern State University. Dale Brown has always had great admiration for Coach Hatch.

Now for the real early days. Coach Hatch’s family moved from Oklahoma when he was young. Coach grew up on a ranch in Louisiana and was blessed with great parents. His father was a Delaware Indian and his mother was a red headed Irish school teacher. His father instilled great work habits in him at a young age. Ranch work is hard and is never finished. Coach’s father was a big strong man that helped Coach genetically, but a lot of his size and strength came from training with weights. As Coach Hatch became older, at around the age of fourteen, he started reading Strength and Health. His father noticed his interest in weights so he decided to take him to the best strength coach in the area. That man was Alvin Roy. Alvin served as trainer for the 1952 Olympic Weightlifting Team. Roy was also the first NFL strength coach. Alvin Roy believed in using the Olympic lifts for weight training for sports. This was ahead of the thinking at that time. Alvin Roy was a major influence on Coach Hatch’s weightlifting and strength training career. Along with Coach Hatch, Roy had trained others noted athletes such as 1958 Heisman Trophy winner, Billy Cannon, Greenbay Packer’s hall of fame fullback, Jimmy Taylor and professional basketball great, Bob Pettit. It was also at this time that Coach met Louis Riecke. Riecke snatch a world record in 1964.

After Coach retired from pro-basketball, he moved back to Baton Rouge and got involved in real estate. He also started an AAU basketball and weightlifting program at the YMCA. It was there that he met his good friend, Walter Imahara. Walter won six weightlifting national championship in the 132 lb. class. It was there that I also met Coach Hatch. I was a 155 pound baseball player for LSU. Coach Hatch’s program made me bigger and stronger and helped me become a better player, but more important he introduced me to the sport of weightlifting which became my favorite sport, a sport that I have been involved in for more than thirty years. I made lifts of 315 pounds in the power clean, hang cleaned 260 pounds for ten reps, squat cleaned 335 pounds and power snatched 225 pounds. Not bad for a 180 pound baseball player.


From basketball star to strongman

Coach continued his strength training after his basketball career, and he went from a strong man to a super-strong man. I was amazed when I first met him. He stood 6 feet 6 inches tall and weighted an athletic 290 pounds.

Strong-man contest such as the Scottish Highland Games were not televised back in those days, but with Coach Hatch’s height, athletic ability and freaky strength, I believe he could have won a world championship. We just didn’t know such contest existed. Olympic lifting and power lifting were the only strength sports we knew about. I saw Coach press 290 pounds for 6 reps behind the neck, and curl 4 sets of 6 with 240 pounds. I watched him do full good mornings with 400 pounds for 5 reps with ease. Coach Hatch also did a pinch grip exercise with the old York 45 pound plates smooth side out for 5 to 10 seconds. I saw him dead lift 855 pounds out of the power rack with the pins set so that the plates were 3 inches off the floor. I also saw Coach bench press 450 pounds 6 times with a fractured bone in his forearm. He didn’t flinch, and he didn’t say a word after he finished the set except to get on our butts for standing around watching him. "Get back to work," he said and we hopped to it. That made it hard to tell a man like that you had a nagging injury. If you were hurt that was one thing, but nagging injuries you worked around them. I saw him pick up 300 pounds that a lifter missed on a jerk off the rack and do a forearm curl and re-rack the weight like nothing. Bob McCarron, a current master lifter and I just stood there and looked at each other in amazement. Coach didn’t say a word.

Coach Hatch was also undefeated in arm wrestling. He actually had competitions at the state weightlifting and powerlifting meets. The entry form would read "Gayle Hatch vs. all comers $200.00 per match to the winner". That was big money for those days, but of course his winnings went to the team to buy equipment. The favorite Coach Hatch story that old timers still talk about today is when the town bully challenged Coach Hatch to a street fight. After being told by so many people that there was one man he couldn’t whip, the bully just couldn’t stand it anymore. This man worked for gamblers and loan sharks and made his living beating up people who were late on their payments. He also liked going into bars just so he could beat up on someone. If you know Coach Hatch at all then you know he doesn’t take any garbage. The time and place was set, and the fight was on. After the massacre, the bully was taken off to the hospital.

Coach is still powerful today even though he is in his sixties. I recently saw him do something that blew my mind. I watched two lifters of good strength trying to move a squat rack that was stuck. The pins completely came out and the medal bar that held the weight slid down and became stuck. Both lifters were pulling and banging on the rack with medal plates, but the bar didn’t move. Coach walked over to them and with one hand grabbed the stuck bar and pulled it back up exactly to its proper position.

Coach Hatch has always been known as a fearless man. He had that reputation as an athlete, and he has it as a man. He received a certification of appreciation from the Baton Rouge Police Chief, Willard Ashford. The certification reads, "In recognition of unusual and outstanding service of the city by assisting the police department in the performance of their duty. Hatch was cited for an act of bravery on December 16, 1974. On that date, he saw a man running at full speed through a parking lot. About two blocks behind, he noticed two men who appeared to be plain clothed detectives giving chase and losing ground. Hatch took off after the man and apprehended him after a few blocks of running. The police then arrived, arrested the man and charged him with two counts of felony. The presentation was shown on television.

John Thrush one of American’s top weightlifting coaches said of coach Hatch that if you get past the technical aspects which he is obviously an expert in, he has a real presence about him, a real rapport with the athletes. Thrush said, "He’s kind of a commanding guy. He reminds me of Patton". Most of his lifters compare him to John Wayne. 2001 American Open Champion, Buster Bourgeois found a life size poster of "The Duke", brought it to the training center and pined it on Coach Hatch’s office door. Luckily for Buster Coach found it amusing.

1984 Olympian Tommy Calandro say’s Coach Hatch, a better man you’ll never meet. You’re a better person just being around this guy, and I trained under him for years. He is a great Coach. I didn’t go to the Olympics we went. Without Coach Hatch I’m not there. 1988 and 1992 Olympian, Bret Brian, said without Coach Hatch I would not be an Olympian. He made my dream come true. He has every quality that a coach should have and manages to impart that to the athlete.

I was a member of Coach Hatch’s first team to attend a national meet. The 1974 National Collegiates at Montclair State in New Jersey. This was a shootout between two of America’s greatest lifters, Phil Grippalli and Mark Cameron. The crowd went crazy and Phil edged out Mark to win the 198 pound class. Our team, LSU, placed second to Montclair State. The LSU Team consisted of Lim Ko Hup, Mike Neal, James Stefanski, John Black, Mike Edwards, Charles Heard, Roy Cefalu, Quan Bryce and me, Jimmy Peyton. It never entered my mind at that time that the Gayle Hatch Team would one day win over forty national championships and have representation on four Olympic Teams and still counting. Keep an eye on Matt Bruce for 2008.

Coach Hatch is a member of both the USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame and the USA Strength and Conditioning Coaches Hall of Fame. LSU, Tennessee and Miami have all won BCS National Championships in football. The head strength coaches have all been students of Coach Hatch. LSU and Miami baseball teams have also won national championships with strength coaches who were trained by Coach Hatch. He has helped the careers of many other notable strength coaches in the high school, collegiate and professional ranks. One other note about the 2004 Olympic Games, Coach Hatch who is a member of the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame donated the uniform he wore at the opening ceremonies in Athens, Greece to the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C.

Denis Reno sometimes refers to coach Hatch as the "Ghost Coach". This is because he usually arrives right before his first lifter lifts and leaves soon after his last lifter has lifted. This is not because he is not sociable in fact he is sociable. But years ago he became disenchanted with the political infighting that went on between different factions of the Federation. He felt once the competition was over, he had completed his job. He and his lovely wife Peggy usually go out to dinner and enjoy a quite evening. Speaking of Mrs. Hatch, the team absolutely loves and respects her. In the early years you could see her working at the score table from the local meets to the national and international competitions. Coach and Peggy were college sweethearts. Coach has told me more than once how lucky he is to have her for his wife. "She helped bring out the best in me", Coach would say.

Coach Hatch is more than a weightlifting coach or strength coach. He is an "All American". From head to toe, he is loyal to the American Flag to the max. He believes in the right moral tings to live by, and he teaches and expects his lifters to follow his lead. There are no ifs or buts about it. You follow Coach, listen to his wisdom and you will profit in life. He believes right is right and wrong is wrong. He never waivers from the truth. If you do right, he will be loyal to you for life.

The Gayle Hatch Weightlifting Team is one of the greatest weightlifting programs in the history of America, and I am proud to be a part of it.