According to Andrew Hatchett, if you're going to talk the talk, you've got to walk the walk, a principle he applies daily to his teaching at the University of South Carolina Aiken. In addition to his role as Exercise and Sports Science Department Chair, he is a competitive Olympic weightlifter, placing first in his division at the North Carolina/South Carolina State Championships in October.
Hatchett began competing in the sport just four years ago. A lifelong athlete, he participated in team sports as a child before delving into weightlifting in the gym of the U.S. Air Force base where his father was stationed. During graduate school, a former student introduced him to CrossFit, a sport that incorporates Olympic weightlifting.
"I started playing around with it in my garage, then went to the state championships in Greenville in 2019," he says. "It's super fun, with the most supportive group of athletes I've ever been around. It was then that I decided to dedicate myself to it."
Hatchett hired coach Michael Cohen of Savannah, Georgia, a three-time Olympian and founder of Team Savannah, which has produced many National, World, and Olympic athletes over the last 20 years. Michael is the son of Olympian Howard Cohen, commonly known in weightlifting circles as the "godfather" of the sport.
"Weightlifting is great because you get out of it what you put into it. If you dedicate time and practice, you will get results," Hatchett says.
He now competes in tournaments across the United States. Having won his age and weight class division at the state championships, he will attend the USA Masters Weightlifting Championships in April in Baton Rouge. If he meets certain qualifying totals, he will be eligible to compete in the Pan American Championships in Costa Rica.
Weightlifting is central to Hatchett's personal and professional life. Exercise and sports science was a natural career path, and he earned his undergraduate degree from Coastal Carolina University and master's and Ph.D. from the University of Mississippi. He served on USC Aiken's exercise and sports science faculty for eight years before becoming department chair in June. Throughout his career, he has applied the principles of weightlifting in his teaching.
For instance, Hatchett explains that Anatomical and Biomechanical Kinesiology (EXSC A321) focuses on how the body moves, a natural correlation to weightlifting, where movement must be efficient in applying force with power. Health and Behavior Change (EXSC A337) teaches that consistency is key to any successful change, a principle central to weightlifting with regard to training, nutrition, and sleep. Exercise Prescription (EXSC A424) focuses on functional movement as the body ages, an area where weight training offers significant benefits.
"I cannot think of a single class we teach where the practice of Olympic weightlifting doesn't lend itself to the subject matter," Hatchett says.
By practicing what he preaches, Hatchett can demonstrate practical application throughout students' coursework. This is a common thread among the department's faculty that offers unique perspectives, as each member of the faculty is involved in a different sport or exercise and speaks to the advantages each brings to overall health.
"What I bring to the table is a genuine love for exercise. I'm a big believer in that if I'm preaching something, I need to have some practical application in that," Hatchett says. "One of our department's greatest strengths is that every member of the faculty is active, but not in the same way. I think that's a good thing."