Clublinksinian Chats - Tom Zappulla

Hire for attitude, train for skill.

Channelling his passion for sport as a youngster into a fulfilling career in the sport and leisure industry, VIC State Manager Tom Zappulla is living his dream.

Having completed his undergrad in Sport & Recreation and then Masters of Sport Management, born and bred Melbournian Tom always knew he would work in the sporting industry, with the wheels set into motion when he took up a role with a local leisure centre and quickly worked his way up.

“I joined a local council-run leisure centre and never looked back – the rest is history.”

After working and developing in multiple-faceted roles in local council for 15 years, it was a casual coffee catch up with prior contact Anthony Edgar (Clublinks’ GM – Facilities & Commercial Development) that presented the role of State Manager opportunity.

“I met (Ant) initially when I went for a job that he didn’t give me! But it’s the perfect example of why you should stay in contact with people as you never know when the right kind of opportunity will come round.”

Since 2017, Tom has held the role of State Manager for Victoria, which is multi-faceted, including oversight of all Victorian sites with an additional focus on business development and growth of the Clublinks client base.

When asked what he appreciates the most working for Clublinks, Tom easily and enthusiastically states a resounding “the people”, and the ability to develop people.

“This is people both sides as well – great members in the team, great leadership but also great clients to work with.

I also really like the flexibility and freedom to try new things – I like how we can run with our own ideas and whilst I don’t call myself an overly creative guy, I like to dip my toes into new initiatives.”

When talking about what leadership and building a strong team means, Tom cites hiring for attitude and training for skill – a mantra he has lived by since his first recruitment experience at the age of 23 – as his foundation to building a robust team.

“If someone doesn’t have the right attitude, they wont last three interview questions with me. I’m also a huge gut person… trust your gut which I’ve learned to do more as I’ve developed throughout my career.”

Whilst 2020 presented unique challenges for many industries, the leisure sector was one of many hardest hit, but Tom once again acknowledges the strong people and cultural base to be the force that weathered the storm.

“Business is really simple – if you have good people that do a good job, the results will come. Whether that’s financial, business growth, development, new sites whatever it is – support your people get them into the right roles that has them wanting to excel and happy to excel. It’s not complicated.”

Outside of the work atmosphere, Tom is a family man with wife of almost 10yrs Kate, and his two little girls – Charlotte (7yrs) and Abigail (4yrs). He states that his Italian heritage plays a huge role in what he deems the reason he gets up in the morning.

“I can get misty-eyed over this but everything I do, I do it for my kids I truly believe that. I work my backside off to make sure they go to good schools, have opportunities – everything that they need to be well looked after.

This comes from my Dad and Uncles, whereby they always said to work hard to provide a better life than you had.”

And Tom gratefully acknowledges that if he can provide his kids as good of a childhood and opportunities as he was afforded, he will truly feel accomplished.

When reflecting on his career to date, we asked what Tom would say to his 23-year-old self?

“Take a few more risks. I’m not talking jumping out of planes but more risks around career and travel and take a break and be kinder to myself. I put a lot of pressure on myself which probably sits with the risk piece, but yeah take more risks – they might just pay off”.