COLUMN: Learning from losing

COLUMN: Learning from losing

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Sophomore Alexander Rurik

UPDATE April 7 Correction: In the article below, author miscommunicated the CSPA’s top honor. The CSPA’s top award is the Gold Crown which The Feather earned in the 2016-17 school year.

For the fifth year in a row, The Feather Online returned from New York boasting yet another Gold Crown award from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association (CSPA). The Feather staff claims seven Gold Crowns since 2010.

However, the CSPA’s award is not the only prize students strive for. The National Scholastic Press Association (NSPA) offers an arguably more prestigious reward–the Pacemaker. The Feather owns six Digital Pacemaker awards, most recently winning in 2016.

This year, The Feather failed to receive a Pacemaker nomination. Along with failing to become a finalist for the Pacemaker award, the staff also failed to receive the CSPA’s highest honors, All-Columbian Honors, which the team received last year as well.

It seems as if the lack of success has left the team scratching their heads wondering what makes this year different from the last. Is it the smaller staff? The abundance of first-year writers? The graduation of so many seniors?

Whatever the cause, it is crucial not to become discouraged, but to learn from this year’s weaknesses and build off them in preparation for next year. In order to continue success, you sometimes have to embrace not winning.

Few people or teams win all the time and losing gives us an opportunity to learn, so why waste the time. Instead, locate and improve your areas of weakness and take advantage of them, working to fix them, when exposed.

I see a great example of learning from losing from the Chicago Cubs. After an exciting 2015 season, the young team reached the NLCS and were swept by the New York Mets. After failing to make history, they had every opportunity to mope and pout but instead came back in 2016 with the same goal in mind: A World Series win. However, being swept helped pinpoint what they needed to work on.

Strikeout rates were too high–learn to work the count and take walks instead. Outfield defense needed a huge boost and the infield needed flexibility so they brought in gold glove outfielder Jason Heyward and the versatile Ben Zobrist. The pitching depth seems to be limited so they signed veteran starter John Lackey and traded for bullpen pieces, like Aroldis Chapman. After that, the 2016 season happened and the rest is history.

However, once you distinguish and resolve your weak areas, there will still be more things to work on because improving is a continuous practice.

I competed on a travel soccer team for a number of years. The constant theme which decided if our season was to be successful or not was if we listened to our coach and practiced the skills he thought we needed to contend in the next level.

After each game, there was always the next thing to work on, always something new to think about and practice. While good, we were never good enough at trapping and passing. Our build out of the back needed constant improvement. We always needed to improve our game.

While The Feather won both the CSPA Gold Crown and an NSPA Digital Pacemaker in 2015-16, they only earned a Gold Crown from the CSPA this year.

In a conversation with senior editor Nick LeBlanc, we talked about possible reasons as to why we failed to get the nomination. LeBlanc noted that we really can learn from our mistakes so we do not continue to make them.

“I believed The Feather struggled with consistency,” LeBlanc said. “Some weeks we nailed it while others we were sloppy. We’ve gotten stricter on what articles run, so I think that’s an improvement. Losses aren’t always a bad thing as we can learn from our mistakes and use these lessons to help reach future success. The team can use this as a way to get back on the right track.”

The Feather may not have locked up a Pacemaker nomination or the CSPA’s highest honors this year, but we will take advantage of that because it shows us what we need to improve on for next year.

For more columns, read ‘No excuse’ commitment fosters success.

This author can be reached via twitter @alexrurik23 and via email Alexander Rurik.

Follow The Feather via Twitter @thefeather, Instagram @thefeatheronline and Facebook @thefeatheronline.

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By | 2017-12-22T18:13:04+00:00 April 7th, 2017|Column, Opinions|3 Comments

About the Author:

Alexander Rurik
John Steinbeck said, “It is the nature of man to rise to greatness if greatness is expected of him.” Over the summer Alexander Rurik, ‘19, joined a group of 24 people on the North Shore of Oahu to volunteer and assist running camp for local, underprivileged students. This experience solidified his desire to work with students in various outreach programs even while he continues plans to major in biomedical engineering. Alex is shifting from Feather sports and blog editor into the role of co-editor-in-chief. While on staff the previous two years, he and his fellow staffers earned two CSPA Gold Crowns and one NSPA Pacemaker. His goal to visit all the national parks in America stems from his love of hiking, birdwatching and nature. Finally, Alex enjoys playing tennis and works as a Spikeball ‘Baller Ambassador in the Central Valley. This author can be reached via twitter @alexrurik23 and via email: [email protected]


  1. Edmund J. Sullivan April 7, 2017 at 2:11 pm - Reply

    Just to correct one factual error in your column: CSPA’s All-Columbian Honor is NOT our highest award for student media. That would be the Gold Crown Award, which, as you rightly noted, The Feather Online won for the fifth year. Our All-Columbian Honor is a supplementary recognition to our Medalist Critiques, which result in either a Gold, Silver or Bronze Medalist rating. These Critiques dissect the publication against a set of printed criteria. The Crown-Awards are entirely separate from the Critiques and involve a holistic comparison of publications against their peers.

    Congratulations on your Good Crown Award!

    Ed Sullivan, Executive Director, CSPA
    Columbia University

    • Alexander Rurik
      Alexander Rurik April 7, 2017 at 5:16 pm - Reply

      Thank you very much Ed Sullivan for your ongoing support for The Feather Online and for your clarification! We look forward to participating with the CSPA in the upcoming school year!

  2. Bryson Graham October 3, 2017 at 9:08 am - Reply

    Nice article Alex. You made good points and used good examples.

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