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'Play Today': student-produced documentary releases this week

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The UNC field hockey team celebrates their victory after the NCAA Field Hockey Championship game against Northwestern in Storrs, Conn. on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022. UNC beat Northwestern 2-1.

For the last three months, a group of media students have been creating a documentary that highlights UNC field hockey’s journey to its 10th national championship. 

“Play Today” debuts this week. 

This will be the Hussman School of Journalism and Media’s fifth national championship documentary, and the fourth covering a field hockey national championship. The student-produced film, which will premiere on Thursday, chronologically follows the team during the 2022 season and includes interviews with players. 

The idea of creating national championship documentaries was proposed by Charlie Tuggle, senior associate dean for undergraduate studies at Hussman. 

Inspired by the success of UNC women’s sports teams, Tuggle said he wanted to create documentaries about any non-revenue team that wins a national championship. Tuggle said one of the main motivations for the projects was that the achievements of non-revenue sports do not get the publicity that other sports do.

“Men's basketball and football — they get plenty of attention from ESPN and everybody else, so their stories will get told,” he said. “We want to make sure we tell the stories that might not get told unless we do it.” 

This year’s documentary was created by a team of about 15 students, led by Tuggle. These are students who have already excelled in Sports Xtra, the journalism school’s weekly sports broadcast show, and were hired to work on the documentaries. 

Tuggle shared how his team takes these projects very seriously and seeks to tell stories in a meaningful, long-lasting way. He also said he expects his students’ work to be of the same caliber as the winning athletes that they cover. 

Caroline Yaffa, a junior majoring in journalism and sports administration, was Sports Xtra’s field hockey analyst last season. She said she has enjoyed forming a relationship with the field hockey team through her work through the course and now the documentary, which has even included getting to know some of the players. 

When creating the documentary, the team used much of their own work, including footage captured at home games and player and coach interviews conducted in their studio. They then combine these with work captured by others. 

“The game announcers might say something really cool, like, ‘Erin Matson just broke the scoring record' and that's on the broadcast, and we'll use the audio from that. So, it’s a mixture of game announcers, interviews, great video, music, motion graphics and all that,” Tuggle said. 

Kyle Lobenhofer, a sophomore majoring in journalism and sports administration, said one of the most memorable moments while working on the documentary — and throughout his time at UNC as a whole — was when Tuggle asked him to attend the national championship game in Connecticut.

Lobenhofer rode on the bus with the band, and said he enjoyed being able to experience the UNC win in-person. 

“I got to run onto the field while they were celebrating to film all that, which was really cool,” he said. “And it's really cool to see all of that footage that I got in the documentary. It's really, really rewarding for me.”

Romea Riccardo, a senior back on the field hockey team, is featured in this year’s documentary. She said she thinks the national championship documentaries have been “incredible." 

“I think that for our University to be able to produce this for our sports teams is something really special, and I don't think other universities have this available to them,” she said.  

Riccardo, who majors in media and journalism and communications, shared how impressed she was by the documentary team coming from her own area of study.

Tuggle said that, combined, the past four national championship documentaries have almost 50,000 views. He said he hopes that athletes will continue watching them for years to come. 

“That is a permanent story that's out there and is going to be told in one place, in one succinct little 30-minute story. That's there for history,” he said. 

Editor's Note: Caroline Yaffa was a former staffer at The Daily Tar Heel.  

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