Yale Athletics

Every Tuesday and Thursday, roughly 1,200 Yale students file into Woolsey Hall for “Psychology and the Good Life,” the most popular course in University history. Among them is Allison Guth, head coach of the Yale women’s basketball team.

As suggested by the course’s record-setting enrollment figures, the science of happiness has captivated much of the Yale community. The nuances of emotional well-being have also peaked the interest of the women’s basketball third-year head coach and her coaching staff.

“I am committed to being a lifelong learner,” Guth said. “I was motivated to audit the course by one of my players who thought I would really enjoy the material. I audited Emotional Intelligence last year after Dr. Marc Brackett peaked my interest at an athletics presentation. I think we have a very unique opportunity as young professionals at a special place like Yale to grow. I like to take advantage of the brilliance around me.”

The coaching staff has been gaining valuable insights from psychology professor and Head of Silliman College Laurie Santos’ lectures. For Guth, one of the takeaways from the course has been a deeper appreciation for the challenges that her players face regarding happiness and well-being. In addition, she has gained a better understanding of how to frame conversations with her players and adjust her coaching during the stressful stretches of the academic year.

Guth has also become more conscious of her role in the lives of her players. The former Northwestern assistant coach wants to relieve some pressure from her student athletes and has been prioritizing mental and physical health over accumulating perfect grades and acquiring the best possible job after graduation.

According to Guth, the specific series of lectures about dissecting the misconceptions as to what makes people happy has meant the most to her because of the personal connection she feels to the material. After studying business in college, Guth had the opportunity to work for a Fortune 500 company. Instead, she took a leap of faith and decided to pursue coaching, the job she knew that she would make her happier.

“I wake up now every day loving what I do, and having the distinct pleasure of teaching a sport I love and helping to grow young people,” Guth said. “I am a better teacher when I understand the psyche of our players.”

Four members of Guth’s team are currently enrolled in the class, including guards Tamara Simpson ’18 — the reigning Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year — and Gabby Nelson ’19, as well as forwards Alexandra Maud ’19 and Jessica Lezon ’20.

Simpson, a psychology major who is averaging 15.2 points and 4.7 steals per game in her senior season, has taken classes before with Santos, whom she called her favorite instructor at Yale.

“As [Santos] does not offer courses often, I jumped at the opportunity to take another one with her during my last semester at Yale,” Simpson said. “As she discusses a lot of topics and problems that Yale students struggle with, it is very easy to engage with the material and apply it to our everyday lives. I would say that the course has taught me to appreciate my teammates and to really savor my last season of basketball at Yale.”

Guth and the Bulldogs are currently tied for third in the Ivy League standings and will host Dartmouth and rival Harvard this weekend.

Jimmy Chen | jimmy.chen@yale.edu

Cristofer Zillo | cris.zillo@yale.edu