With the successful NWSL Challenge Cup behind us in 2020, things have quieted down on the NWSL front. But during the Utah-based tournament, the North Carolina Courage engaged fans with extra content before, after and between games, co-hosted by the North Carolina FC-familiar announcer, Dean Linke, and adding a second host, Anna Witte, who brought her own soccer insight, knowledge, and experience.
Courage Country talked to Witte before the quarterfinal round, getting Witte’s thoughts about the round, but wanted to rewind and give a little more background on Witte and how she became involved with the Courage.
Anna Witte, from a young age, knew she wanted to be involved in sports broadcasting.
“Ever since I was really little, like, six or seven, I’ve always wanted to do this,” Witte said.
Witte added that she never had a specific sport or angle she was looking to cover.
“I just wanted to be around athletes, cover their stories, talk with them, and just be around the game even after I was done playing my sport.”
Witte is deeply familiar with both soccer and North Carolina, growing up in Cary, NC, and playing for Cary High School squad and within the predecessor to NCFC Youth, CASL, playing for 1994 CASL Elite and CASL Chelsea Ladies teams along the way.
Witte attended Penn State University, playing for the Nittany Lions soccer team. During that time in Pennsylvania, she dove into broadcast journalism in multiple ways, becoming a sideline reporter for the Big Ten Network, reporting and hosting content for GOPSUSports, and interning with Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC.
Witte majored in broadcast journalism but had a side degree through the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism.
“I got to meet a lot of great people who I still talk with in the world of sports,” she said.
Outside of her time on the soccer pitch, Witte found ways to exercise her sports journalism muscles.
“I just asked Coach if I could just interview the team of my teammates and just talk with them, not even about soccer,” Witte said.
“Let’s get to know them because plenty of people covered women’s soccer at Penn State.”
She then went to the team’s athletic communications person to find a way to cover Penn State football in a way that others weren’t doing.
“I was kind of their in-game reporter in the sense that if you were a fan at home. what were you missing besides the game?”
“I covered what was happening between quarters, who were the guests, what was happening before and after the game.”
After college, Witte ended up in Washington D.C. as a freelance video editor for NBC Sports Washington, where they covered the obvious professional teams of the town including the NHL’s Capitals and the NBA’s Wizards. She noticed that there was little coverage though of the NWSL franchise of Washington, the Spirit.
Witte said with her background in and around soccer, knowing some of the players across the NWSL, and a few on the Spirit, she took it upon herself to do some coverage.
“Why don’t I just go out there on my own time?” she asked.
Using her NBC Sports Washington ties and credentials, she started contacting, interviewing, and producing pieces.
“My bosses were really great and just let me kind of do whatever I wanted to do. I had a friend and co-worker come along with a DSLR and help shoot it,” she said.
“I just got to know all the awesome people out there and that organization and some of the players. And that’s kind of how I started covering the NWSL.”
NC Courage Ties
During the 2019 season, Witte joined North Carolina FC broadcaster, Dean Linke to help host the match against the Orlando Pride, a game that was Heather O’Reilly’s last regular-season match in a Courage kit, playing against the Orlando Pride.
“Growing up in Cary, we went to a good amount of UNC soccer games when she was there. So in a way, it kind of came full circle just being there for her retirement was really cool.”
With both Linke and Witte having ties to the Big Ten Network, we assumed that was some of how the two ended up hosting the Challenge Cup NC Courage content. But Witte said it was simpler than that, just getting a call from Jorge Acuna, North Carolina FC’s Vice President of Game Operations and Broadcasting.
“They just asked if I would be a part of the pre and postgame show and just whatever else this production would become so that’s kind of how it came together,” Witte said.
Witte said the video content they created for pre and post games, as well as in between the Courage Challenge Cup matches was well planned out, but all flowed and happened pretty organically, preparing just a few questions each between herself and Linke.
Pro’s and Cons of Remote Broadcasting During the Pandemic
It’s been said over and over how strange 2020 is, and how things are being done differently on so many levels. It’s both a pro and a con.
Witte said a big con was just some of the communication and lag the technology brought.
“I was saying to someone the other day, the conversations you have in person, you can pick up on people’s body cues — when they’re going to stop speaking or when they’re going to start. You can’t really do that over the computer.”
But it’s not all negative with technology. Witte said the access and planning were great.
“We get more access from these players more time because they don’t have much going on outside of practice and games and whatever else they do,” she said.
Witte added that doing the interviews via Zoom added a level of comfort to the interview that may or not happen face to face.
Up Next For Anna Witte
Anna Witte’s current run of broadcast and video content creation for the Courage came to a halt when the Courage lost 1-0 to the Portland Thorns in the quarterfinal match of the NWSL Challenge Cup. The post-game broadcast was the last for Linke and Witte.
Since the conclusion of the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup, Anna Witte has entered into the podcasting realm. She published the first episode of her podcast last week, Words With Witte. She describes the podcast as, “spotlighting inspiring stories from people paving the way in life and their careers.”
The first episode follows Emily Kotarski of Emily Kotarski Bridal’s journey.