On-Campus Interview Series: New HBS Rugby Captain Carl "Lavos" Lavin

Last week, Carl “Lavos” Lavin was elected the new Captain of the Harvard Business School Rugby Club.

Rugby is not new to Lavos. The sport has played an integral part of his life ever since he laced his first rugby boots and delivered his debut tackle at the age of 12 in Blackpool, the town in northern England where he grew up.

Lavos continued to play rugby at the highest level at university. He was one of a small number of undergrads that qualified to play for the Oxford University’s “Blues,” the university’s varsity team. During his time with the Blues, Lavos played Cambridge University in front of over 60,000 people and captained his team to victory against South Africa’s premier university rugby club. Lavos has also represented English universities against Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Between Oxford and HBS, Lavos spent five years working in venture capital at Deutsche Bank and Apax Partners in London. His dedication to rugby remained steadfast even during his time in the finance profession. Lavos traveled three hours every Saturday to play flanker for his home club.

Today Lavos’s devotion to rugby is as strong as ever. In his meeting with The Harbus he tells us how his father, a boxer and tri-athlete, introduced him to sports and how he can combine his life as a warrior on the rugby pitch with his life at home as a loving husband and father. And, as we also learned, 400 games of rugby have not left him unscathed. Lavos has had over 100 stitches on his head alone.

Name: Carl Lavin
Section: NE
Nationality: English
Height: 6ft
Weight: 200lbs
Eyes: Blue (“come on, do you want to know my shoe size as well?!”)
Hair: Brown with streaks of grey
Marital Status: Married for four years to high-school sweetheart, Lisa. They have a 2-year old daughter, Chloe
Favorite Food: Meat pie, chips, mushy peas and gravy (“traditional Northern”) and fly-halves and wingers (“they’re pretty tasty; usually I have them for dessert”)
Favorite Drink: Boddington’s Bitter (“cream of Manchester”)
Favorite Films: Braveheart and Gladiator
Favorite Band: “I don’t really listen to music…”
Nicknames: “Lavos” and “the Jackal”
How Acquired Nicknames: “‘Lavos’ comes from my surname and it has more character than Carl-that’s what my rugby mates thought. In school, I was sometimes called ‘the Jackal’ after ‘Carlos the Jackal’ who used to take people out. I take people out on the rugby pitch…”

Harbus: What’s your involvement with sports at HBS?
Lavos: I am the newly elected captain of the HBS Rugby Club and I play intramural soccer. I focus my time on rugby when my wife lets me out a few times a week. If I don’t play rugby for a few months, I go crazy.

Harbus: What position do you play on the rugby team?
Lavos: I play open side flanker, which means that I do a lot of running and tackling.

Harbus: How would you look at your first eight months of playing rugby at HBS?
Lavos: Our win at the Wharton MBA tournament last fall was a great success. But, we could have done better in the local Boston league. Next year I would like us to focus more energy on the local league and make sure all our players make it to the games on a regular basis. The big challenge of the year is the tournament at Duke. The other side of rugby, the social side, has also been a great success this year. It has also been great to see so many guys join the club who have never played rugby before.

Harbus: Could you talk a bit more about the social dimension of the HBS Rugby Club?
Lavos: The spirit of the club is unbelievable. People’s dedication to the team and to each other, on and off the pitch, is second to none. As the new captain of the club, I hope to carry on and grow this spirit of camaraderie next year when a new generation of RC and EC students will join the team.

Harbus: Do you expect to recruit a lot of new players next year?
Lavos: Absolutely. When the second year students leave, we will have 25 players. I hope that we will get at least 25 new players next year. We are looking for experienced players and beginners, large guys and small guys.

Harbus: When did you first get involved with sports?
Lavos: I got into sports because of my dad who was an amateur boxer and later represented Great Britain in the triathlon. As a young kid I would train with my dad in the boxing gym. I started playing soccer when I was five years old and rugby when I was 12. I played both soccer and rugby every weekend. At the age of 16, I had the option to leave high school and play professional soccer. I decided to stay in education and focus on rugby instead. Rugby really has shaped my life and who I am.

Harbus: What do you mean by that?
Lavos: You really understand what being on a team is all about when playing rugby. You learn how to fully rely on other people in a way that I have not seen in any other sport (or work environment for that matter). Rugby has also shaped me as a leader. My motto is to lead by example. When you lead by example on the pitch you get a lot of respect. The lads follow your example and listen to your advice and act on your instructions. Rugby has also taught me what it means to be tough. Aside from my dad, I know few people who are tougher than me, who are willing to take the pain required to win. On the rugby pitch, you can punch on me as much as you like and I’ll just smile back at you. Then I will tackle you…hard!

Harbus: What is your best sporting moment on the field?
Lavos: It must have been when I, as captain, led the Oxford varsity rugby team to victory against Stellenbosch University in South Africa. We were the underdogs and being the captain of the winning side was a great feeling.

Harbus: And what is your worst sporting moment?
Lavos: During my second year at Oxford, I suffered a bad injury in my head and had to give up my position on the varsity team for the rest of the season. This was very frustrating since I had played on the first team the previous year and trained extremely hard the whole summer and early season. It was difficult for me to step down, but finally I had to make a decision between my health and sports. Sometimes you have to put the best interests of your family ahead of your own personal goals.

Harbus: Is that when you started wearing a scrum-cap (a kind of soft rugby helmet)?
Lavos: Maybe, at least more often…I have had at least 100 stitches in my head from rugby-related injuries. Don’t worry – this is not normal! People would joke about how often I would be stitched up on the sideline then come back on the field. I think it is just my playing style.

Harbus: What’s the biggest challenge of being involved with sports at HBS?
Lavos: First, it is hard to organize a team with massive mix of abilities. Both talented players and beginners should feel welcome in the team, and I try to run the practice to accommodate both ability levels. Second, it is difficult to get everyone to come to practice, because people at HBS have so many commitments.

Harbus: What are the benefits of being involved with sports at HBS?
Lavos: Getting to know 50 guys really well. I will never get to know the people in my section as well as the guys on the rugby team. I should also mention the adrenaline rush…I have to play some competitive sport, otherwise I go absolutely mad.

Harbus: What do you do when you are not playing rugby?
Lavos: To be honest, when you’re working hard and playing rugby, all time that is left is reserved for my wife and daughter. My wife loves the extremes of my personality. I often sit at home playing dolls with my daughter when I am not killing people on the rugby field.

Harbus: What is your next athletic challenge?
Lavos: Duke. The annual Rugby MBA World Championship at Duke this weekend. It is a massive challenge for us. I will be disappoi
nted if we don’t win. Yet, at the same time, there are five or six teams who can win it. I hope that we will win it. If not on ability, because we want it the most. Heart means a lot in rugby.

(Editor’s note: The tournament at Duke took place this past weekend (April 9-10), results unavailable as The Harbus went to press.)

Harbus: Finally, do you have any advice for young athletes out there?
Lavos: Practice hard. Remember that you are only as good as the environment you are in. If you seek out the highest levels of competition, you will perform at that level yourself. Maintaining a competitive spirit is the key to success. When I was younger, I hated losing. A few tears later, I learnt how to lose gracefully.

Harbus: Great, thanks for your time.
Lavos: Thank you.