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FUTURE JOCK : High-Tech Reseda Sports Facility Offers Sophisticated Training for Athletic Elite

February 05, 1989|JEFF MEYERS | Times Staff Writer

I t was only a few months ago that Frederick C. Hatfield--a sports psychologist and record- setting power-lifter known as Dr. Squat--was training elite athletes in the two-car garage of his Northridge home. Today, he reigns over a $1.5-million scientific facility that he's hailing as a one-of-a-kind laboratory where America's super jocks can get even better.

"We can provide the most sophisticated training ever devised by anyone, including the Soviets," Hatfield claims.

Hatfield has jumped into what he regards as a void in the free world--a high-tech sports facility that combines science, computer-age technology and an expert staff. "There's nothing like it anywhere in this country," Hatfield says. Not even the U. S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., he says, is equal to his own CRAFT Center in Reseda, which opened in December.

"The Olympic facility has damn good scientists and nice equipment but they lack cohesiveness and a passion for what they do," Hatfield says.

Olympic Training Center officials dispute that claim and raise questions about the academic underpinnings of Hatfield's approach. Skeptics abound from the academic world where conventional wisdom holds that ground-breaking work takes place in college labs by researchers who are well-known in the medical and scientific communities. Not by a guy named Dr. Squat who tinkers in his garage.

"Hatfield is not a leading sports scientist in this country," says Jay Kearney, director of sports sciences at the Olympic Training Center. "His professional vita is not outstanding."

Kearney and other academicians dismiss Hatfield as a lesser player in sports sciences because he hasn't published articles in prestigious medical and scientific journals--the academic version of making the all-star team.

But Hatfield, a 46-year-old ex-Marine who likes to be known as "the guru of fitness and training," gets high marks from the sports community, having established himself as a writer, trainer and world-class athlete. Not a pure scientist who "accumulates knowledge for the sake of knowledge," Hatfield says, "I work in the trenches with athletes. My focus is the real world."

Hatfield, who holds a Ph. D. in sports psychology from Temple University, was editor of Sports Fitness magazine and has written hundreds of articles for Muscle & Fitness magazine, which has a circulation of 600,000. He also has been published in psychology journals and visited the Soviet Union in 1983, spending 2 weeks at the Institute for Maximum Human Potential, he says, "hobnobbing with top Soviet scientists."

Hatfield's professional vita may not include articles in the Journal of the American Medical Assn., but it lists the names of dozens of athletes he has trained, including New York Mets pitcher Sid Fernandez; Olympic sprinter Alice Brown, who won gold medals on relay teams in 1984 and '88; and pole vaulter Mike Tully, silver medalist at the 1984 Olympics.

"Fred really knows what he's talking about," Tully says, "because he's done it on himself first."

At a power-lifting event in Honolulu 2 years ago, the 5-foot-6 Hatfield, weighing about 255 at the time, raised 1,014 pounds in the squat, an American record that would have been a world record had the meet included drug testing. To Hatfield, the Herculean effort validated his training theories. Even Kearney concedes, "He knows a lot about training and has a great background from a practical standpoint."

While Hatfield's garage contained homemade apparatus and such esoterica as an irradiation chamber, the CRAFT Center is loaded with state-of-the-art equipment, including a new software program designed by NASA computer specialists and Bob Ward, the Dallas Cowboys conditioning coach for the past 13 years and a Ph. D. in bio-mechanics. The program integrates all known information on an athlete--from endocrine concentrations to strength levels--and comes up with an optimum training and nutritional regimen.

Ward says that the software program gives Hatfield all the tools to "make a major contribution to the science of sports training. Fred's got the first comprehensive system in the world to integrate everything"--all the technology available today.

The facility includes Computer Bio-mechanic Analysis, which combines high-speed filming of an athlete with computer analysis; an accelerometer that can measure the whip in a pitcher's arm; and an isokinetic machine that plots a muscle's fatigue curve. Within a few months, Hatfield says, the center will add a hyperbaric chamber to train athletes at different atmospheric pressures; a sensory deprivation chamber for psychological programming and a hydrotherapy tank with underwater observation windows.

"To an elite athlete, a very, very microscopic change in performance can be the difference in winning and losing," says Harvey Kurland, an exercise physiologist on Hatfield's staff who once worked for Dr. Frank Jobe's National Athletic Health Institute.

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