Female athletes from Iowa are special in many ways; here at the IGHSAU we work to recognize the “Iowa Girl” and share our enthusiasm for the good that she represents. There is something unique in every Iowa Girl, whether that be leadership, dedication or compassion. Each one has a story worth sharing. 

Welcome to the Iowa Girl Project. Join fellow Iowa Girl Mia Laube as she shares the stories of Iowa Girls who are taking the skills they learned through their education and athletic career above and beyond. These women are making a positive impact on their communities, big and small. They inspire the next generation to compete in sports and conquer the challenges ahead. 

Proud to be an Iowa Girl!


Iowa Girls HAVE HEART.

Northern Iowa head women’s basketball coach Tanya Warren values faith and family above all. She shares her heart with her basketball family as she teaches her players to navigate life.

When Tanya Warren was in eighth grade, her brother Steve died at age 17 of a heart attack during basketball practice. Warren never wanted to step on the court again.

“It took someone that I loved,” she said.

Warren’s two brothers were her idols, and Steve’s death changed the course of her life.

“Wherever my brothers went, I went,” Warren said. “What they played, I played.”

Now the head women’s basketball coach at the University of Northern Iowa, Warren has decades of playing and coaching under her belt. She does it all for her brother.

“If I’m going to play this, I’m going to do it for both of us,” she said. “Everything I do and have done in this game is because of him.”

Warren went to Des Moines Lincoln High School and continued on to play basketball at Creighton University. She is now a Hall of Fame inductee at both schools as well as the Iowa High School Girls Hall of Fame. Her number 10 jersey is one of two numbers retired at Creighton. After college, she was a high school coach before jobs at Creighton, Iowa State, Missouri and UNI. She was also an assistant coach for the gold-medalist 2015 USA Women’s World University Games Team in South Korea.

All it takes is one conversation with Warren to discover how much heart and passion she pours into her basketball family. That means she does everything to help her players succeed when they finish college.

“We get through the good, the bad and the indifferent together,” she said.

Warren faces adversity with the help of her strong faith, and she instills that toughness in her players by teaching them to give back to each other and their community.

Two things the UNI women’s basketball team does every year are the Hoops for Heels fundraiser and Salvation Army work at Christmastime.

Warren said the benefit for her team is “being able to give back to the community and know what we’re doing is going to make a difference... not for one woman, but several women, not one family, but several families.”

“And it costs us nothing,” she said.

Despite the high demands of being a student-athlete, Warren does not expect perfection out of her players. Far from it.

“We do second chances,” she said.

Sports are more than just a game, and Warren is mentoring the next generation of Iowa Girls as they enter adulthood.

“We’re all in the midst of something called life,” she said.

But life doesn’t have to knock us down. Warren continues on with her faith and passion in her brother’s name. 

And even though her family faced tragedy early in her life, her family continues to grow as she enters another season of UNI women’s basketball.

“You cannot put a price tag on the closeness of family,” Warren said.

Iowa Girls lead from the heart.


Written by Mia Laube. Mia is a freelance writer for the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union. She is a graduate of Marion High School and currently attends the University of St. Thomas where she studies journalism and communications. As a former Iowa high school student-athlete, Mia is excited to share the stories of the "Iowa Girl" through the Iowa Girl Project.