Spry is thrilled to celebrate the many successful African Americans in the sports industry. We are proud to work with many of these men and women and can’t wait to share their stories and successes with you!
We recently had the opportunity to speak with Tara A. Owens. Owens is currently in her first year as Athletic Director at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.
Below is a summary of our conversation:
Please give me a brief history of your life/career.
“I grew up in a small town in Virginia. Being that it was a rural area, I spent a lot of time between the ages of 10-14 working in tobacco. Maybe that’s where I developed a strong work ethic. I loved the game of basketball but I knew I always wanted to teach and coach. As a kid, I’d play basketball on a small court with wood posts. I eventually earned a basketball scholarship to Virginia State University. After college, I was offered a middle school teaching job which I enjoyed, but my heart was still in coaching so I eventually accepted a position as an assistant coach at Cheyney University. My breakthrough in coaching came relatively early and by 28, I had become a head coach.”
After 18 years as a head coach, serving stints at Elizabeth City State and Norfolk State, Owens felt she was ready for a change. It was then that she decided to transition from the coaching ranks to administration, becoming the Athletic Director at Baltimore City Community College. Shortly after arriving at BCCC, Owens recalls a conversation with her Vice- President. “He said, ‘I’d like to introduce you to our new head women’s basketball coach.’ I said, ‘I don’t recall hiring anyone’, and the Vice-President responded, ‘It’s you!’” From that point forward, Owens would pick up her clipboard again and wear the dual hats of AD and Head Coach. As with everything else in her illustrious career, she would enjoy tremendous success in her dual role, earning Maryland Junior College Athletic Conference Coach of the Year honors three times. After eight years at BCCC, Owens served four years as AD at Central State University prior to assuming her current position at UMES.
Who have been your role models/mentors professionally? Personally?
“Personally, I’d have to say my mother and my grandmother have had the greatest influence on my life. My mother was a warden of a male prison facility, which is obviously a rare position for a woman to hold. Seeing these women exhibit such great strength was definitely an inspiration to me.
Professionally, Vivian Stringer has had a positive impact in the way that she not only had tremendous success in her own right but also paid it forward by trying to create new leaders.”
Also, Dr. W. Clinton Pettus (Former President of Cheyney University), allowed me to grow and develop under his leadership. Dr. Cynthia Jackson-Hammond (Former President of Central State University) constantly encouraged me to use my voice and she always told me, “I was the right woman for the right time at Central State University.” And last, but certainly not least, Dr. Heidi Anderson (Current President, University of Maryland Eastern Shore) has empowered me constantly and provides amazing leadership and guidance.”
What advice would you offer young professionals today?
“Expect challenges. When challenges come, view them as opportunities to grow. Rely on your faith or whatever you lean on during difficult times, but don’t let challenges intimidate you.”
“Tomorrow is a different day. Don’t allow how you feel in one moment to dictate the rest of your life.”
“Learn from your experiences. Mistakes will happen but as long as we don’t duplicate our mistakes they can help propel us forward.”
What do you know now that you wish you’d known earlier in your career?
“That I’m enough. I spent several years trying to figure out how to be better than the competition. But I know now that success isn’t about being better than other people or pleasing other people. It’s really about just being the best version of yourself, and that whatever you are is enough.”
Finish the sentence. The best part of my job is:
“Paying it forward. Seeing people that you’ve mentored or taught graduate, get that first job, or make it to the next level are the most gratifying moments for me. Everywhere I’ve gone I’ve always brought someone along with me. My proudest moments are seeing other people excel.”
What Black History Month Means To Me…
“Black History Month is extremely important to me because it’s a way for us to represent all of our collective histories and honor the sacrifices as well as the contributions of all of those who have come before us. I’m extremely proud to be a part of the HBCU family because HBCUs have been essential protectors of so much of our history through the years. Black History Month is really the culmination of all of our collective efforts as a people and there are so many rich stories associated with our culture that we really can’t capture it all in just 28 or 29 days. Black history should be celebrated year round.”
Through her tireless work as an educator, coach, and administrator, Tara A. Owens has cemented her place within the rich mosaic of African-American history. Spry is proud to tell her story as part of our celebration of Black History Month.