USF senior forward Demi Stokes always dreamed of coming to America. After leaving her family in South Shields, England, she quickly found a home at USF.
Stokes has become an important part of the USF Women’s soccer team, playing in all 13 games this season for USF and scoring two goals.
Stokes immediately connected with coach Denise Schilte-Brown and the rest of the soccer team when she visited the school four years ago.
“It was probably the fastest I ever connected with a kid, and I had never even seen her kick a soccer ball,” Schilte-Brown said. “She really embraced our team right away and loved USF. She actually didn’t take her other visits after she came here.”
Shortly after that first encounter, Schilte-Brown flew to England to visit Stokes’ family. When Schilte-Brown first arrived, she was overwhelmed.
“I had landed in another country. I had to drive three hours in sleet and snow in this car that I didn’t know how to drive,” Schilte-Brown said. “It’s driving on the wrong side of the road, and I was in a Mercedes SLK. I was really out of sorts because the roads were too narrow, and I didn’t understand the roundabouts.”
Schilte-Brown’s trip took a turn for the better when she arrived at Stokes’ family home.
“The first time I met her nan (grandmother) was with a hug, and her mom – the same thing,” Schilte-Brown said. “They welcomed me into the house. They had roast beef – a traditional English meal – waiting when I got there. Her brother helped cook it. You can see where she gets her warmth from when you meet her family.”
Stokes is one of five children, having three brothers and one
sister. Demi, however, is the only one involved in sports.
Growing up in the English
soccer culture, Stokes has been playing the game since she was five years old.
“I hung out with boys from a young age, and they played
soccer, so I got playing with them,” Stokes said. “We were out – day and night – playing soccer. After school, I would be out all night, and my mom would be dragging me in for bed.”
In high school, Stokes was captain of the all-boys county team. She’s a member of the English Full National Team and has played on the Under-17, -19 and -20 teams.
Despite the nearly 4,500 miles between England and Florida, Stokes easily transitioned to life at USF.
“Even when I was home (in England), I wasn’t home,” Stokes said. “I was always out at college or playing soccer or traveling somewhere for soccer. It’s school, soccer, school, soccer, and you just repeat that.”
With the help of technology, Stokes rarely gets homesick. She knows her family is just a phone call away.
She does, however, miss the fresh food from her country.
“It’s a bit easier to get fresh food over there,” Stokes said. “There are more farmer’s markets. I feel like a lot of stuff here is fast food.”
Stokes said families in England traditionally gather every weekend to share a grand Sunday roast.
“It’s kind of like your version of a Thanksgiving dinner,” Stokes said.
Stokes brought her food expertise to the states. The senior has shared tips and tricks for maintaining a balanced diet with her teammates.
“(Stokes) recently went shopping with one of our freshman to help her pick out different meals,” Schilte-Brown said. “She sleeps right, she eats right and she trains hard. I think a lot of the girls look at her and see that example and have asked her, ‘Can you help me with strength and conditioning? Can I lift with you?’ A lot of them go to her for nutrition.”
Stokes goes out of her way to help anyone who needs it, from coaches and trainers to teammates, Schilte-Brown said.
“There’s always a selfless air about her,” senior forward Sarah Miller said. “It just encourages everyone else to be selfless.”
Stokes leads by example, earning the respect of her teammates and coaches.
“A team is a different kind of family, and you want your players to behave that way,” Schilte-Brown said. “I think she’s the best role model that we have for that.”
Stokes played in her final regular season game as a Bull on Friday, in which USF lost 3-0 to UCF.
She is currently preparing for the 2015 World Cup, which kicks off in June. She’s been involved with the squad since January and has been training in camps. She will find out if she made the roster around May.
“Until then, it’s just hard work and grind,” Stokes said. “Hopefully I see my name on that squad list.”
Stokes will return to England to train with the Full National Team before returning to the states for the AAC Conference Tournament.