Sports Media students cover Clarke Central sports

Student taking pictures of boys soccer game.
Adam Walters photographs the Clarke Central High School boys soccer game vs. Winder Barrow on March 29, 2024. CCHS defeated Winder Barrow 6 to 1. (Photos: Sarah E. Freeman)

Sports Media students cover Clarke Central sports

April 22, 2024

It’s 5:30 p.m. on a Friday night, and instead of resting after a busy week and getting ready to go downtown for the evening, Amy Duggan and Avni Trivedi are preparing for their class.

But they are not in a campus building getting ready for a lecture. They are pacing the sidelines of the soccer field at Billy Henderson Stadium at Clarke Central High School. With the long shadows of dusk falling on the Kelly green field, Trivedi is taking pictures of the girls soccer players going through pre-game drills, while Duggan is finalizing details for the team’s opening graphics on Instagram.

Trivedi and Duggan are students in Social and Digital Media Production for Sports, one of the “advanced skills” courses in the Sports Media Certificate offered by the Carmical Sports Media Institute. This is not a traditional college class. Instead of attending lectures and taking exams, the students are divided into reporting teams to cover boys and girls soccer, tennis, and track and field on CCHS’s social media channels, including Instagram, X (formerly Twitter) and TikTok.

Sports Media students also cover sports teams at North Oconee High School.

The Sports Media students are at practices and almost every home and away game gathering information, considering potential storylines, taking pictures, filming video, interviewing coaches and players, posting statistics and strategizing on how to create and distribute their content. 

“These students are providing a service to the teams they are covering, because if they don’t cover these stories, no one will,” said Carlo Finlay, assistant director of the Carmical Sports Media Institute and instructor of the course. Finlay attends almost every CCHS game with the students and has been part of this program since it started at CCHS in January 2020.

Chris Aiken, the associate athletic director and coach for boys soccer, is grateful for what the collaboration has provided for the high school athletes.

“It’s helped keep everyone informed about our season,” said Aiken. “It also has provided us with a lot of motivation to keep getting successful results and to keep that positive momentum going.”

Adam Walters, a Sports Media student who is on the team covering the Clarke Central High School boys soccer team, appreciates the opportunities this class has provided so close to campus. 

“It’s just such a unique opportunity to do things hands-on and to dive head first try some new things,” Walters said. “And, it’s in our own backyard.”

While many of the Sports Media students taking this course have aspirations for future careers in sports media, several alumni of the course are already employed working in similar roles. For instance, Kyle Soto (AB ‘22) is a digital marketing coordinator for the Nashville Soccer Club, Audrie Uphues (AB ’23) is a videographer for player content for the PGA Tour and LJ Jackson (AB ’22) is social media specialist for Purdue Sports Properties working with Purdue University Athletics, just to name a few.

Avni Trivedi (left) stretches to take a picture of the Clarke Central High School girls soccer team huddle before their game on March 29, 2024. The Clarke Central High School girls won the game between Winder Barrow 2 to 1.

Commitment by the Sports Media students

There is more buy in than just going through the motions to earn a grade in this course. These Sports Media students are invested in their work groups, as well as to telling the stories of the athletes they are covering. The students are committed to communicating the athletes’ stories in as complete and authentic way as possible on social media.

“Our goal is to reflect the personality and vibe of the team,” Duggan said. “I want people to look at our posts and not see us…it’s about the athletes.”

Duggan admits that the class is more time-intensive than creating a few posts and taking some pictures. They are frequently messaging their classmates between games, generating ideas for content. And, they spend a lot of time collaborating in the car traveling to away games.

“It’s life-consuming because there is so much planning and talking about it behind the scenes,” Duggan said. “But we make time for it because it’s fun.”

Walters says that whether he is chatting with the soccer players before a game or texting Aiken during the week to ask his feedback on upcoming content, the personal investment in this class feels different than most.

“I think the relationships make it feel a little bit more elevated than just a project or just a class,” Walters said.

The community benefits from the partnership, as well. Keeping fans engaged and players motivated is an important way for the Sports Media students to learn about the community and get out of their normal class routine.

“Sports are a great lens to learn about community,” said Finlay, who has applied the training from his Service-Learning Fellowship program to this class.

Two members of the girls soccer team pose for a picture taken by Trivedi before their game.

Vibing with the Teams

Whereas most students measure their success by grades from their professor, for these Sports Media students the highest compliment you can pay them is whether the student athletes appreciate their latest posts.

Throughout the season, bonds have formed between the UGA students and soccer players. Trivedi admits she wasn’t sure if she would have much in common with the players at first, but she found they were very welcoming.

“They feel comfortable talking to us about what they like to see on Instagram are coming up and saying things like, ‘I love that post you made’ or ‘the photos look so good,’” Trivedi said.

“The girls ask us to tag them so they can share on social,” Duggan said. “That makes me feel good because it shows they like what we are doing.”

Walters agrees and says he is most gratified by the growth of the Instagram page, something he attributes to the success of the team, but also to the fresh content.

“We’ve got just random videos blowing up and we’ve seen crazy growth this season,” said Walters, who gets inspiration from professional teams but is also trying to build something unique. “We’re doing things kind of unique, but I don’t think we’re reinventing the wheel or anything.”

Olivia Podes (left) and Gabby Canzian discuss a video during the game. Podes and Canzian are Sports Media students who cover Clarke Central High School boys soccer.

Preserving memories

For Aiken, the professional content that the Sports Media students produce shines a light and records memorable moments for sports that are not followed as widely as football and basketball.

“They get to remember goals, assists, funny moments of practice, team bonding…it’s great to have it all captured and recorded in one place that they will be able to go back and review it for years to come,” Aiken said.

Wyatt Meyer, a junior on the boys soccer team, knows that CCHS has a unique partnership that not a lot of other high schools have.

“It’s pretty exciting to know that in a given game, there are people who are watching and trying to promote you as an athlete, as well as the team overall,” Meyer said. “Having the media team take on some of that responsibility brings a bigger crowd out at home games, for sure.”

Aiken recalls two years ago when one of the Sports Media students captured an electrifying play during a regional game in Loganville.

One of the graphics on the @cchs.menssoccer Instagram account that was created by the Sports Media students. Both the CCHS boys and girls soccer teams are advancing in the play-offs,as of April 22, 2024.

“The UGA student ran along the field, down the sideline with the video tracking the play and captured the whole build-up, to the actual scoring the goal, and then the celebration on the sidelines,” Aiken said. “It’s a moment I go back and watch all the time just because it’s so enjoyable to see the excitement of the kids.”

Aiken said the Sports Media students this year capture the soccer team’s overall successes well, including state rankings and goal differentials, stats that are really specific to boys soccer. This is especially meaningful since the CCHS boys team is still competing in the play-offs as of April 22.

The team and fans value content beyond posts about wins and statistics, including post-game interviews that profile different players, not just the star athletes.

“I love the kind of off-the-wall content,” Aiken says of videos like the recent player interviews where they were asked about their celebrity crushes. “It gives our student athletes time to show their individual personalities and what they’re like as far as students off the athletic field. I think those videos get a lot of engagement as well.”

Meyer adds that in the era of NIL, these social accounts are providing a platform for the student athletes to start marketing themselves.

“I’ve seen athletes create social media accounts dedicated to posting their own content so they can market themselves to colleges or professional teams,” he said. “For our team, it’s like we have a leg up on everyone else — the team is giving whoever performs well a chance to market themselves and open up potential future opportunities.”

Canzian (far left) sits on the track adjacent to the soccer field to review game day graphics before the game, while the girls soccer players listen to a game recap from their coach.

Keeping family posted in Athens and around the world

One of the things that is most meaningful to the Sports Media students is the impact their social media posts are making on the community, whether it is the players, families or friends following the accounts.

Trivedi recalls one game where player Bella Yelton had an impressive play. After the game, Yelton’s father came bounding down from the stands asking the Sports Media students if they had captured the play. Indeed, they had a video of it.

“That was so cool because we were able to send it to him so he could have it in his memories now. I think they really appreciate us being there and being able to capture the best moments of these girls in high school,” Trivedi said. Trivedi estimates she takes nearly 1,000 photos each game.

The work the Sports Media students are doing is being seen not just by local family and friends, but also by people around the world. Brothers Patrick and Cormac Allen play on the CCHS boys tennis team and both sets of grandparents live in Ireland. Thanks to the CCHS tennis Instagram account, they can regularly see pictures and watch video of the matches their grandsons play.

“Everything that the students produce is tremendous, and it’s a lovely living archive of that moment that wouldn’t be there otherwise,” Nicholas Allen, father of Patrick and Cormac, said of the coverage of the team’s region tournament win.

As director of the Willson Center and the Baldwin Professor in Humanities at UGA, Nicholas Allen is familiar with the university’s outreach, and now he has experienced it in a personal way.

“Georgia, the University, is committed to public service and to elevating the state,” he said, “and this is a lovely example of a local high school, underserved and diverse, and the [Sports Media] students who have made a really positive intervention. It’s a great thing.”

Carlo Finlay (l) with Trivedi and Duggan wrap up the girls soccer game on March 29, 2024. Finlay has instructed the Social and Digital Media Production for Sports class since 2020 and attends nearly all the games his students cover.

Author: Sarah Freeman,