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College looks to create more Lionesses with appointment of female FA apprentice

04 Jan 2023
Sammie Leigh and Daisy Stokoe

A talented female footballer is on a mission to encourage more girls and women into the sport.

18-year-old Daisy Stokoe has been appointed as Middlesbrough College’s FA Women’s Football Development Officer (Apprentice), tasked with creating a sustainable increase in participation in women’s football within Further Education (FE).

A keen cricketer and footballer from a young age, Daisy grew up around sport and played for various teams before earning her current positions playing football for Sunderland’s Women’s U23s and cricket for Yorkshire Women’s first team.

At the College, she’s working alongside a team of experienced, ex-professional and expert coaches to develop the women’s football academy and has big goals in mind.

Daisy, from Whitby, said: “I’ve loved sport, particularly football, for as long as I can remember and always wanted to play like my brother and dad, but women’s football wasn’t anywhere near as popular as it is now.

“In fact, there were no girls’ teams in my hometown growing up and so a friend’s dad started one so just so I could play. I then played for Scarborough Ladies, and Middlesbrough before signing for Sunderland.

“I always knew I wanted a career in football, on or off the pitch, and was applying for university when I spotted the FA apprenticeship. It sounded perfect.

“I already coach at local soccer school on a Saturday morning and felt like this was a great opportunity to develop my skills even further – and I’m already loving it.

“We’ve recently entered into a local college league and have fixtures every Wednesday which is giving the team the opportunity to play alongside each other and build their confidence.

“We won our first game, which was amazing considering some of the team had never played an actual game before. We’re making real progress and can’t wait to see how far we can get.”

Daisy works at the College full time, taking one day a week to study towards her apprenticeship qualification. As well as coaching, her new role sees her visit local schools and build vital relationships with external partners such as Middlesbrough Football Foundation.

Middlesbrough College launched its Sports Academies programme in 2012 and now operates academies in seven different sports, offering specialist coaching to develop sporting excellence, nurture talent and aid personal development.

The academies are staffed by ex-professional players and national coaches who have all played at the top level in the UK or abroad and now pass on their skills to more than 130 students.

More than 20 female students are currently enrolled on College’s Women’s Football Academy – ranging from beginners to talented Teessiders who play for local clubs.

Samantha Leigh, lecturer and head of sports academies at Middlesbrough College, said: “Daisy’s appointment demonstrates our commitment to developing women’s football not just here in the College but across the region.

“She’s already made a huge impression on the Academy, building vital partnerships in the community and encouraging more girls to be involved with the sport.

“Daisy’s talent on the pitch is undeniable and so it’s amazing for her to be able to share her experience with our Women’s team to help build their skills and confidence.”

Following the success of England’s Lionesses at the Euros in the summer, Daisy hopes the increased exposure to the game will encourage more young girls to consider playing.

She added: “I’ve followed women’s football since I can remember, and you used to get barely anyone at a game. People would turn their nose up at it and think it’s not a women’s sport.

“Now, we’re seeing record attendance at games and see so much more talent feeding through the system.

“You only have to look at the likes of Beth Mead who I’ve followed since her days at Middlesbrough and Sunderland. She’s incredibly talented and now she’s finally getting the credit she deserves – playing for Arsenal and England and winning player of the tournament at the Euros.

“The North East is one of the best areas when it comes to talent in women’s football. The amount of people who’ve come through the system like Jill Scott and Lucy Bronze is amazing. People don’t realise you can actually make it as a professional footballer, but they’re proof you can.

“My role at the College is to help develop those pathways in our region and I’m just getting started!”

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