Louis Riecke, Jr.Weightlifting, 1942-80
Jesuit High School/New Orleans Athletic Club/1964 Olympics
Lou Riecke was born October 2, 1926. He was the oldest of five children; three brothers and one sister. He grew up in New Orleans. He always thought of himself as an athlete, albeit a skinny one! At Jesuit High School he ran track and particularly enjoyed sprints and the long jump. During his senior year, he decided that weightlifting would help him in his efforts to gain weight so he could play football. Lou spent many long hours that summer lifting weights at the New Orleans Athletic Club and working as a lifeguard at the Ponchartrain Beach in New Orleans where he and his future wife, Enid, enjoyed performing acrobatics with friends. All his training must have paid off because he was twice named best athlete of the year, all sports, in the Greater New Orleans area.
Lou joined the Navy after his first year of college at Louisiana State University. He was stationed in New Orleans at the Navy Medical Hospital for the duration of WWII. Upon his return to school, he won the NCAA weightlifting championship in 1947 and on three occasions captured the national YMCA title. It was at the National YMCA championship in Los Angeles that Lou set a 325-pound World Record in the snatch in the light-heavy weight division. Over the years, Lou and his friends continued his weightlifting regimen in his gym, which was set up in his garage. This also served as a convenient place for housing all of his trophies!
In 1964 at the age of 38, Riecke won the Olympic trials in New York and competed later that year in the Tokyo Olympic Games. Lou states that his favorite picture is the one the Times Picayune took of him, his wife, and their four daughters, Vicki, Ginger, Cindy, and Lee, as he was headed out for the Olympics. Prior to leaving for the Games in Tokyo, the American Olympic team visited the NASA space capsule production facility in L.A. It was reported that the capsule was a tight squeeze!
In 1970, Chuck Noll, head coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers, was replaying films of 13 straight disastrous football games. In the process, he discovered the definite correlation between strength and hitting. He called Lou and set up an interview, after which Riecke was hired to improve the strength of the then hapless Steelers. He designed a special apparatus that was nicknamed the Riecke-Rack and installed one at the Three Rivers Stadium at Pittsburgh and another one at the Steelers’ training camp.
Riecke knew the value of strength training for maximizing athletic performance. He stated, “I operate on the theory that all NFL players are good athletes or they wouldn’t be here, but I know if their strength is improved they’ll hit harder, run faster, jump higher, and move quicker, because they have more horsepower.” He went on to say, “There’s no way for you not to know you’re strong if you are, and if you’re strong and know it, you’ll find yourself doing things you wouldn’t even attempt if you didn’t know you’re strong.”
Coach Riecke was highly respected by other NFL franchises as well. John North, Head Coach of the New Orleans Saints, recognized the impressive job Riecke had done with the Steelers and was quoted as saying, “We’d like Lou with us year round, but I don’t know if we can get him away from Pittsburgh. If we can’t get him full time, we’ll use him in the off season.”
After the 2010 Super Bowl Party in New Orleans, this Legend in the Field of Strength and Conditioning was wearing something a bit more special than a team jersey, his four Super Bowl Rings, a testament to the tremendous impact of his contributions to the field!