Earlier this month I was fortunate to visit my alma matter, Northwestern University, and work with several different groups of student-athletes. The visit was quite nostalgic and surprisingly made me reflect on myself during my four years of college. Let me preface by saying I don’t have any regrets about my college experience or my performance as a student or an athlete. They were some of the greatest years and most memorable moments of my life. In talking with many current collegiate student-athletes, I have recently found myself thinking about things I believe I did well, and things I could have done better, both as an individual leader and as a team leader. Is there anything specific that you would tell your college self? We all know that a big part of college is growing and developing into a young adult. You’re not expected to be a perfect decision maker and know all the answers. I don’t have any doubts about my four years or wish I would have had an altered experience – but if afforded the opportunity, I would have given myself these three simple tips before stepping on campus.


When it came to playing lacrosse – on the field, I would deem myself adequate in this area. It was likely because of my willingness to try new positions, new techniques and push the limits of my skills. It was off the field where I would have liked to see myself get uncomfortable more often and be less focused on ‘fitting in.’ Many times, I cared too much about what other people thought or afraid people would think. In particular, there were opportunities to speak up more. There were many instances when my participation could have boosted communication on my team or enhanced my involvement in class. Occasionally I had things to say and comments to share, but held back from inserting my voice. I’m not sure if it was a fear of being wrong, or people not agreeing with me, or scared people would think I was trying to assert power. In any case, there were times I was timid. And for no good reason.

It would likely have also been beneficial for me to leave the comfort of my own zone and step out of the athletics bubble more often. There were plenty of moments when I could have immersed myself in the college community – like attend theater productions or art exhibits or guest speaker keynotes. I am proud of my focus and dedication to athletics and academics, as I think that commitment is what helped make me successful – but there were interspersed opportunities where I could have attended more on campus events and activities. This is where I stayed in my comfort zone. It would have also been nice to develop some relationships with people on campus outside of athletics. There were so many great people in my freshmen dorm and in my classes who I didn’t take the time to get to know. I could have made a greater investment to build relationships with some of these people.


Even though some of my classes were rather obscure and didn’t seem applicable to my life at the time (i.e. Rhetoric and Democracy in Classical Athens), I still could have given a greater focus to learning and processing the concepts. I didn’t maximize the knowledge and expertise of my professors. So many times, it was an internal game to test the maximum memorization level my brain could reach. Or my attention was geared toward the topic of the one 20-page paper I needed to write for a class, losing focus on the other key learning points. With a demanding schedule and work load, and the pressure to get good grades, it’s easier said than done. However, it’s an area I could have given a greater effort towards.


At times, college can be an emotional roller-coaster. Maintaining a high level of focus was something I prided myself in – But sometimes my positivity would waiver. Too often, I sweat the small stuff. For anyone who’s ultra-competitive like me, you know that getting over even a tiny loss is easier said than done. But looking back, there were so many times I let little moments of failure or doubt get me down. I would tell myself now to develop and hold myself accountable to a quick process to overcome those emotions and get back to a positive mind-set. For example, this process could have involved allowing myself one minute to release any negative thoughts – followed by giving myself a positive affirmation and having a specific encouraging mantra to think about and repeat internally.  Several of my teammates had great consistent energy, a positive outlook and mentally focused mind-sets. It would have been advantageous to work harder to emulate them.

Another area where I could have been more consistent was with my own internal confidence, as well as instilling confidence in others. Unfortunately, too often, my play dictated my mind-set – when it should have always been about the team first. I could have been more focused on consistently empowering my teammates, without regards to the type of day or game I was having. I have learned that people admire those who are dependable, reliable and consistent. I strive to bring those qualities to my daily life.

College was an amazing learning experience. I built relationships, worked hard athletically and academically, and learned to maximize my time. Overall, I am pleased with myself as a leader and proud of the skills I developed over my four college years. I would offer these three tips to ANY college student, as they’re steps that would have helped me ascend to another level and I am confident could help others as well.



Kristen Kjellman Marshall is an Associate Partner at velocityHUB and the Executive Director of the Victory Academy.  The velocityHUB team serves as consultants, trainers and executive coaches to some of the world’s leading companies, universities and entrepreneurial, growth-oriented businesses.  Kristen is the driving force behind velocityHUB’s Victory Academy, a series of leadership development programs specifically focused on maximizing the potential of the emerging generation for colleges, high schools and youth groups.  Kristen and her diverse team of leadership coaches work with college academic and athletic departments to instill leadership attributes, professional skills and bring real-world experience to some of the most prestigious campuses across the country such as Brown University, Dartmouth College, University of Miami, Tufts University, Connecticut College, Babson College, UMass Lowell, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Amherst College and many others.

About the Victory Academy

The Victory Academy delivers hands-on, experiential leadership programs for students, athletes, coaches and administrators at many of the world’s most prestigious colleges, universities, prep schools and high schools. Our vision is to inspire leadership to empower the emerging generation to maximize their potential and lead others to VICTORY.

Learn more: http://www.victory.academy

About velocityHUB

velocityHUB’s vision is to build one million leaders by delivering results-oriented training programs, high-value consulting and targeted executive coaching. velocityHUB has developed 110,000 leaders in 14 diverse industries. The velocityHUB clients range in size from 350,000 employees to one-person sole proprietorships and are publically traded market leaders, private businesses, family-owned businesses, venture-backed startups, associations, nonprofits and academic institutions. Learn more about velocityHUB at www.velocityhub.com.

Contact:  Kristen Kjellman Marshall | 603.402.1711 | kristen@velocityhub.com