Scrolling through the images on Yale women’s basketball head coach Alison Guth’s Twitter feed, it is no easy task distinguishing the coach from the players. In pictures showcasing jokey Christmas attire and playful selfies, the first-year coach is camouflaged, fitting right in with her team.
Guth served as an assistant coach at Yale for two years before leaving in 2012 to be an assistant coach at Northwestern, whose teams she grew up supporting from her home in the Chicago suburbs. But when former Yale head coach Chris Gobrecht announced last spring that she would depart to coach at Air Force, the vacancy created an opportunity for Guth to return to New Haven. Since assuming the head coaching position, Guth has become more than just a coach for the 11–10 team — she has developed close bonds with the 15 players, six of whom she personally helped recruit to the team.
“It was always an idea to be a head coach at a strong academic program, and the Ivy League was of intrigue and attraction to me specifically because of the people that I met here,” said Guth, who walked onto the women’s basketball team at Illinois before earning a scholarship. “I believe so much in this University and the athletic department and it was always a dream job.”
Although Guth has held multiple coaching positions at three universities since graduating from Illinois in 2004, she has also developed her ability as a mentor through efforts off the court and outside of the locker room.
In her first stint in New Haven, Guth served as a resident fellow for Swing Space, an experience she said gave her a better understanding of what her student-athletes experience. There, her roles included planning study breaks, resume review sessions and mock interviews for undergraduate students. In addition to her Bachelor of Science degree in business, Guth earned a master’s in educational leadership from DePaul while simultaneously serving as director of basketball operations.
“[Guth] is an outstanding teacher and communicator,” Yale Director of Athletics Tom Beckett said. “Her students know how much she cares about each of them. [Guth] has earned their trust and confidence.”
He added that the athletics department is thrilled to have Guth on the sidelines, and that she has a “very promising future” as a head coach.
During her time at Yale, Guth worked on all recruiting efforts for the team, a task she believed should be “relationship-driven.” Guth got to know both players and their families throughout the recruiting process, which she said helped develop a feeling of mutual trust with incoming Elis.
“I got to see through different lenses what students’ lives are like here, how amazing and incredible an opportunity it is to be a student at Yale, all the opportunities [they] have that also draw [their] attention in so many different directions,” Guth said. “It helped open my eyes because I got to see the challenges and the opportunities my student-athletes go through. [It] helped me connect to my student-athletes.”
Forward Meredith Boardman ’16 said Guth was able to paint a clear picture of what life would be like at Yale during the recruitment process — capturing the unique balance of campus culture, academics and basketball that Yale offers. In her previous role as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator, Guth helped recruit all four members of the team’s senior class, as well as junior players Lena Munzer ’17 and Katie Werner ’17, whom she brought to campus for unofficial visits in her final year at Yale.
Players interviewed commended Guth’s broader understanding of the Yale experience as well as her support of players beyond the basketball court.
When guard Clara Mokri ’18 displayed her work in a photography exhibition, not only did Guth and her wife attend, but the coach also made the event a team outing. On Thanksgiving, when players could not return home due to the ongoing season, Guth hosted a holiday dinner for the team.
“While she does expect commitment to basketball, she still values and respects our time,” captain and guard Whitney Wyckoff ’16 said. “She is so interested in what we do outside of basketball. She really encourages us to develop as people, and by keeping us accountable on the court, she is teaching us lessons that can be applied off the court as well.”
Players credit their improvements on the court to their strong relationships with Guth.
Guard Nyasha Sarju ’16, who has more than doubled her scoring average from last year and is now fourth in the Ivy League with 15.4 points per game, said Guth always asks players for their opinions on practices or specific plays. She added that mutual, honest feedback is a crucial component of her coaching style. Having an open relationship and giving constructive criticism would not be possible without the trust the team has built, Guth said.
“We have improved so much this year in our individual skills and as a team, and we are playing our best basketball since I’ve been here in large part because of her leadership,” Wyckoff said.
The Bulldogs are currently tied for fifth in the Ivy League standings with a 2–2 conference record.