Wilmington-native Making a Career Out of Having Fun

December 4, 2018

Wilmington native Lisa Stokes took her love of sports all the way to a career at ESPN, where she is the director of Talent Booking & Production. COURTESY PHOTO Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

WILMINGTON -- In high school, Lisa Stokes was a Wildcat who played four sports: field hockey, basketball, softball and ice hockey.

Now, at 34, the Wilmington native has more than 10 years under her belt working at ESPN in Connecticut. Despite the discipline and solid work ethic Stokes has exerted over her lifetime, she acknowledges a special childhood friendship as playing a role in where she is today.

“When I was 8 years old, my best friend was a very athletic boy. We played sports every single day. I credit all my knowledge and sports skills I have to him,” she said. “Really, from then on out, sports was always a part of my life.”

Stokes completed internships at Fox 25 and the Lowell Spinners as well as an independent study with the Boston Celtics. She also completed independent work with the center of Sport in Society at Northeastern University. After graduating from Suffolk University, where she played basketball and studied journalism, her first job out of college was doing public relations at the Women’s Sports Foundation.

For the past six years, she has been the director of Talent Booking & Productions at ESPN. She books guests for all of ESPN’s national television shows, commercials and more. But the “big names” aren’t what stick out to her most in her career.

“The thing that I always love the most is we have this amazing ability to find exceptional stories and exceptional human beings and then tell their stories really well to the world,” Stokes said.

She recalled her favorite booking of her career. It was a young boy named Jack who was diagnosed with pediatric cancer. He was given the opportunity to run a touchdown at a Nebraska practice football game.

“We had him and his dad on SportsCenter and it was just the sweetest, sweetest thing,” Stokes said. “Later on, his dad was doing an interview and said, ‘Because Lisa called me to come on ESPN, it drove a lot of donations for pediatric cancer.’”

She said she feels blessed that her team is made up of a group of talented and genuinely caring people. Stokes also stressed the importance of having fun with the work they do.

“We have this awesome privilege to work at a sports network, which is amazing. What we do is supposed to be fun,” she said. “That’s why people come to ESPN, because they love sports, they love journalism. If you can have fun doing what you’re doing, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

While working a full-time job and raising a 5-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter with her husband, Stokes is also taking online graduate courses at Georgetown University based in Washington, D.C. She is studying sports industry management. She was one of 30 students in the entire university to be recognized Thursday as a Class of 2018 Hoya Professional 30 honoree.

Daniel Kelly, the faculty director of the Sports Industry Management program at the university, provided her a reference for the program.

“I thought it would be a great opportunity to honor her because of her hard work, her grades are exceptional and what she adds to the courses,” Kelly said. “It was a no brainer to recommend her for the award.”

The applicants’ success in their careers, academic performance and references are some of the areas the university reviews for the honor.

Kelly said it was significant for the university that Stokes made time to accept her award in person. It was her first time on campus.

“This is the reason why I have this job. I think this is my calling my passion, working with exceptional students to help them reach their goals,” Kelly said. “I look forward to seeing her success in her career.”

Stokes said she always envisioned her graduation day as her first time on campus, but she was thrilled to be able to come to campus sooner.

“I’m hoping that maybe someday down the road I can get into teaching sports journalism and sports media because that’s been my field for so long,” she said.

And if that wasn’t enough to juggle, Stokes also spends her Saturdays teaching youth sports at her local YMCA. How does she do it all?

“I pray a lot,” she said. “And while the choice to go to graduate school was my own, I do realize God only allows us what we can handle.”

Follow Kori Tuitt on Twitter @KoriTuitt.

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