Even Hubert B. Gates, misunderstood sometimes by his peers, students and himself, admits he has four personalities. "I might have the same name," he said, "but there are at least four different Gateses."
The two most widely known Gateses are the successful teacher and track coach at Spingarn for the past 19 years. A third and very private side is his family and religious face. The fourth and perhaps the most surprising is Gates, the author.
"I've always loved to write, but I'm a lazy writer," said Gates, 62. "When it hits me, I write. When I run out of thoughts, I stop. Once I had five different thoughts, I wrote five different short stories at once. Maybe I'm a scatterbrain."
Gates' recent and first big seller is a novel called "Never to Rise Again." When he retires following the 1985 cross country season ("I'm hoping to leave in 1986"), Gates plans to spend more time writing.
Although he always has had a yen for writing, he said recent events involving his driver education and coaching positions have pushed him toward his new-found hobby more and more.
"I became so disgusted and frustrated with the illegal recruiting of track athletes and the manner in which the meets were being operated, I quit coaching in 1981," Gates said. "I was out a year when the kids asked me to come back the next season. Oh, I'm still bitter about this situation, which has only gotten worse by the way. We have new rules but they aren't enforced.
"I know I'm not the coach I was three or four years ago. The enthusiasm, the zest, just isn't there anymore. It's time for me to go."
When he was enthusiastic, his teams were always among the most competitive, prepared and fun to watch. Despite not having the big numbers, his "small teams" won more than their share of races and track meets over the years.
"I always told my kids you aren't going to win every meet. You impress people more when you can overcome great odds and rise up and fight back," Gates said. "I had a good track career in high school and college and I'm just giving a little back of what was given to me. If any youngster can reach his potential through track, I'm pleased. For many, high school is the last stop for their athletic careers and it's important they enjoy that."
Gates, a native of Newark, N.J., was an outstanding middle- and long-distance runner and hurdler at Hampton Institute and Seton Hall University. He has served on numerous committees concerned with driver education and track and field. He has won various awards and is credited with founding the Spingarn Invitational cross country meet, starting a track and field magazine and directing the highly successful Marc Jenkins Relays, this year to be run April 17.
At present, Gates is the girls coach and Bruce Williams handles the boys team.
Gates said his proudest moment was watching his 1967 four-mile relay team of Leon Thomas, Ed McCall, Vincent Harrington and Davie Cook become the first black team to win at the Washington-Lee Haringer Relays in addition to going under the 19-minute mark.
"That was a feat never before accomplished," he said. "Now I have a few girls, some who don't have the interest and others who really don't want to work. They fit track in with their schedules. That really bothers me.
"I was in the store the other day and this man came over to me and began talking about his track days at Spingarn," Gates said. "He introduced me to his family and told all about what he was doing and how well he was doing. That made my day. When my former students and athletes come back and tell me how they are contributing (to society), that makes me as proud as if they went to college.
"And they always call me Coach Gates. That title, "Coach," is special; it means respect. It's the endearment that goes with that title," he said. "Coaches are very instrumental to most young people. You know, Coach is a beautiful title. I love it."