Meet a State Operations Manager

Interviews with real people in real roles across our industry.

Name: Damien Searle
Role: State Operations Manager at Volleyball Queensland

Interested in finding out more about a career as a Sports Event Managers? Read our Career Guide.

Q&A with Damien Searle

I came from the playing angle. When I was playing volleyball and attending university at the same time, I was able to run the administration side of things and earn a bit of money by doing it. That opportunity opened the doors for me.

I was at university studying science when my professor tapped me on the shoulder and said, “I was in my apartment the other day watching people walk on sand dunes. I know you like beach volleyball. I’m pretty sure there’s a thesis in that”.


This job is a merge of my scientific study and my passion for playing the game. I started off volunteering, moved into working part-time, and eventually managed to get a full time job running volleyball and beach volleyball.

Looking at a typical day as an events manager is like asking how long a piece of string is. Pre-event, there’s a lot of administration with promotion of the event and connecting with schools. Then I begin with event delivery.

I began setting up this school’s cup event on Thursday and today is Monday. We had the council come in to level the courts and dig the holes for the posts. From then on, it’s a manual job. My team and I put all the nets up, place the lines down, and erect the tents. I have to engage my staff that deliver the events for us, and then later on we will have to pack it all down as well. Event delivery day might start at 5 a.m. and finish at around 8 p.m. 

You also have to plan for events in the future. If we were to look at our numbers since COVID, our participation numbers have gone up by 25 to 30%, so I’m always trying to pre-plan what two years’ time is going to look like in terms of the number of courts that we need. 

There’s all these different elements of running an event that some people won’t think about.

When I turn up on a day like today, I’ve got 2000 kids playing beach volleyball, some for the very first time, and their first experience of the sport is Coolangatta Beach with the sun out and music in the background. That is what inspires me to keep going. 

Sometimes, it’s the mums and dads that go out of their way to say “Thank you so much. My kid had a great time”. 

At the end of the day, my job is about facilitating these opportunities for kids.

Find what you enjoy doing. There’s various elements within sports management, whether it’s being on the medical side of things or someone that sits in the office and does the draw for events. 

And then volunteer. Go to your local sports club, shake someone’s hand and say, “I’d really love to help you do something”.

Develop some networks as well. The building I work at in Brisbane, called Sports House, has about 20 different sports. Go and tap on a few and say, “What do you guys do? Do you need someone to help?”

The things I always look for are enthusiasm, dedication, and responsibility. Are they able to take on responsibility and think for themselves? It’s great to have some people who say ‘do this’ or ‘do that’, but I like my staff to take initiative. 

At the end of the day, we’re in a customer service industry. If people have got questions, you put a big smile on your face and help them out. 

If sport is your passion, then it will never be a job. Embrace the opportunity. Go out into the world, get some experiences, find out which element within sports management that suits you and entices you to turn up every day.

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