As the nation honors Black History Month, the City of Cedar Falls would like to recognize the impact local leaders of color have in our community each and every day. One of these individuals is not only a pioneer in our city, but a true trailblazer throughout the region. In 2007, Tanya Warren of the University of Northern Iowa made history as the first Black female women's head basketball coach in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Her record of success speaks for itself. Warren is a three-time Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year and has guided the Panthers to league regular season titles in 2010-11 and 2015-16. Following the 2015-2016, Warren was also named an assistant coach for Team USA at the World University Games in South Korea. Her squad eventually took home the gold medal.
As a child, Warren has always been an Iowan at heart. Growing up in Des Moines, she was the youngest of three siblings. Since the age of five, she fell in love with basketball and shared that love with her two older brothers. By the age of seven, Warren had already dreamt of playing Division I basketball. However, tragedy would soon strike her family and shatter her dream. During her eighth-grade year, Warren's brother, Steve, suffered a heart attack during basketball practice and passed away at 17.
"I wanted to walk away from the game," Warren said. "But my parents sat me down and said that is not what Steve would have wanted. God has allowed this game to be very good to me, both personally and professionally. All that I have accomplished is in my brother's honor."
Warren would go on to play basketball at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, before embarking on her coaching career which culminated in her groundbreaking role at UNI. During her journey, she continued to grow the passion that started as a child, despite the barriers along the way.
"I have endured many tough times in my career," Warren said. "I have had to learn to adjust my tone, show little to no emotion, pick my battles, and chose my words wisely over the years. In many cases, I could say or do something similar to others and I come across as angry or complaining and they come across as expressing emotion and asking a question."
Although Warren and her team have earned success on the scoreboard, it is off the court that provides some of her proudest moments.
"Adversity can either develop or destroy and the latter is never an option," Warren said. "I have been given a platform to inspire and help others and I will always do that to the best of my ability. It is important for me to help continue to pave the way for young girls as so many others did for me. The game is much more than wins and losses. It is my responsibility to make sure our young women are better upon leaving than arriving, both on and off the court. Nothing brings me more joy than watching them grow and develop into incredible young women who continue to have a positive impact on the lives of others."
As far as her favorite coaching memory at UNI, Warren laughs that the options are numerous although some do stand out.
"Our first championship and NCAA tournament in 2010 and winning the gold medal in US basketball in 2015. Also securing our first ever NCAA at-large bid in 2017. It was the first at UNI and the third or fourth in the Missouri Valley."
As Warren continues to impact the young women around her as well as the community, she never forgets her roots.
"My parents are my pride and my joy and I would not be the woman I am today without them. Professionally, C. Vivian Stringer is someone I have always enjoyed watching and reading about. What she has done for the game and all women, especially young women of color, is incredible."
"I have been blessed to be surrounded by amazing people, players, and coaches, both past and present. These accomplishments are far bigger than me. It takes a village to help make dreams come true."
Learn more about the accomplishments and impact of Coach Warren at https://unipanthers.com/sports/womens-basketball/roster/coaches/tanya-warren/520.