UNION, NJ -- Fall coaches and team captains of high school sports from across the county attended the UCC Fall Sportsmanship Workshop at Union High School on Wednesday in preparation for the upcoming regular season.

The Union County Interscholastic Athletic Conference, the governing body of high school sports in the county, held the event, which was split up into two segments.

The first half of the program was held in Union High School’s auditorium, where Montclair State University professors John McCarthy and Dr. Robert Gilbert and former Montclair State basketball player Michael Spence gave motivational speeches about leadership and hard work.

Sign Up for E-News

McCarthy, who has experience coaching high school students, collegians and minor leaguers, explained what he looks for in a captain. He wants kids who are vocal, inclusive and dedicated. Captains are expected to be team motivators -- the first person at the field and the last person to leave it.

“As a captain,” McCarthy said, “You have to sublimate your ego for the good of the team. That’s not easy.”

Following McCarthy in the order was Gilbert, who has given more than 5,000 talks. He  focused the need to keep the team energized. When giving speeches, he expects listeners to be more energized at the end of the speech than at the beginning. To do this, he played games, such as “Simon Says,” and kept the crowd engaged during his lessons.

While McCarthy and Gilbert discussed different aspects of captaincy, they did touch upon many of the same points, especially one’s commitment to the team.

“I hope you are the best player on the team,” Gilbert said, “But the most important thing is you have to be the best player for the team. That is non-negotiable. If you can’t be the best player for the team, maybe you shouldn’t be captain.”

Spence’s talk focused more on the players as individuals. Concentrating on personal experiences and anecdotes, Spence worked to help the captains find out more about themselves and their inner drives.

“The problem with so many of us today is that we are trying to change the world but we don’t want to change ourselves,” said Spence, who wants students to realize that they can achieve their goals, not only on the playing field, but off it as well.

After the conclusion of the general presentation, players and coaches broke off into sections around Union High School by sports. In these new groups, sports officials and athletic directors went over sportsmanship protocol and new rule changes for the upcoming year.