From Doncaster to Down Under, football has helped Cam Foulkes forge a life that would otherwise have been unattainable.
Although the former Rovers scholar didn’t make the grade as a player at the Keepmoat Stadium, he continued his association with the Club as a coach in the youth ranks, shortly after being released in 2019.
Fast forward to 2022, Foulkes is enjoying a new life on the Gold Coast. Having initially joined Coomera Soccer Club as a player-coach, he recently earned a move to Brisbane Strikers FC alongside a full-time foundation coaching role with Pro-Player.
“Moving over here has been life changing,” says the 21-year-old. “My life is almost completely different to a year ago, and I’m loving it. I’ve been lucky and found a dream job as a full-time coach, allowing me to work with good players every day in an amazing spot.
“The playing is different, but I’m really enjoying it as well. I’m playing with freedom and a fearless attitude that I probably could have done with a few years ago – but that’s part of the experience.
“I’m also helping a couple of lads who’ve been released from professional Clubs to get out here and I’d encourage anyone to take the leap. The standard is better than I thought and the lifestyle is brilliant!”
Foulkes’ coaching journey began as an Under-18 at Doncaster, when he undertook the Level 2 (UEFA C) Coaching qualification as part of the academic programme – delivered by the EFL’s education partner League Football Education (LFE).
That sparked a passion that would ultimately evolve into a career that has also allowed him to travel the world.
“I look back on my time at Doncaster and feel so grateful for the good and the bad times,” he recalls. “That period of your life shapes you into a man.
“Being given the chance to do the Level 2 course was great for me. I don’t think I would’ve naturally moved into being a coach without that experience, but I ended up being quite good and, fortunately, the coaches at Doncaster saw that.
“The Academy system is not designed to be perfect and I have empathy for anyone who finds it a struggle, but it’s designed to give you experiences. It wasn’t all great, but an easy ride isn’t the formula for creating a footballer or developing experienced people.
“For me, I couldn’t really ask for much more because I’ve gained another career and moved to the other side of the world thanks to the Club. The support network is there for everyone, but sometimes you can’t just wait for it to come to you; you have to take the initiative and ask.”
Foulkes worked across the Foundation phase, mainly with the Under-11s and 12s, before stepping up to the Under-15s and 16s, while he also passed on advice to the Under-18s by delivering a couple of workshops, discussing options after the scholarship from his perspective.
“You can have all the tactical knowledge, but the more coaching that I do, the more I realise it’s more about you as a person,” the former Sheffield United schoolboy explains. “If you’ve got good personal skills and if you can be empathetic to your team-mates, you’re going to be well-suited to coaching.
“When I look at my skill set objectively, I’m better suited to coaching than playing. You’ll naturally gain the tactical and technical knowledge from being an Academy player, but if you develop yourself as a person, that’ll stand you in really good stead.
“There was a Life Skills session I had as a scholar that I still reference even now. It was called My Future Today and it referred to being more than just a footballer, using the analogy of building chair legs to create a stronger foundation.
“In an Academy, you can develop personal skills, hard work, resilience and humility – all things that can transfer outside of football. If you invest in the scholarship, you’ll gain important traits in return and that’ll set you up for life, whether you stay in football or not.”
During his time with Donny, the Yorkshireman set up his own coaching company and became one of the youngest people in the country at the time to secure a UEFA B licence, aged just 20.
“The Club were really supportive about me getting on the course early,” says Foulkes. “I own a private coaching business called 5Star Football Academy and I wouldn’t have been able to do that without the Level 2 coaching badge, but you only feel like you’re dabbling in it until you get the UEFA B.
“The coaching company is still going well back in England with another lad who was a scholar at Doncaster called Reece Fielding. Hopefully, I can launch it here as well.
“I feel really lucky for all the experiences I’ve had – at Sheffield United and Doncaster – and the journey has led me on a path to even more amazing opportunities.
“I think my goal is to build 5Star and try to progress into top level coaching, but whether that’s here, back home or anywhere else remains to be seen. I’m just going with the flow and enjoying the ride!”