Tianna Chambers Finds Comfort and Conflict in Sport


Courtesy of Lisa D'Ambrosia

Sophomore Tianna Chambers (#15) plays against Mullen on April 6. Creek lost the game 4 – 3.

Marie Webster, Chief Sports Photographer

Tianna Chambers used to sit alone at the lunch table, but that changed when she showed what she could do as an athlete.

Chambers, a varsity athlete for girls’ basketball and soccer, has multiple college offers to play from Colorado State, Montana State, and Mississippi State universities, and is talking to other schools such as Pennsylvania State, Creighton, and University of Northern California.

The feeling of being different and left out started when Tianna’s family, who are mixed Panamanian and American, moved into the district. “She sat by herself in the cafeteria or if she sat at a table, kids would get up and leave,” her mom, Nicholle Chambers, said.

Tianna still struggles with fitting in at Creek, especially when she started playing soccer at Creek. “Most of the girls were welcoming. It’s just that I wish there were more people of color,” Tianna said. “There weren’t many girls that looked like me.”

Throughout her athletic career at Creek, Tianna has relied on encouragement from her parents. “When she does training with me I force her to say affirmations about herself. This is still implemented in our workouts,” Nicholle said.

Tianna often works to appreciate her identity, especially with support from her mother. “From a young age and my children being mixed ethnicities I wanted to make sure they were proud of where they come from. I always told her to love her curls, skin, et cetera,” Nicholle said.

To Tianna, basketball was much more diverse and felt more like a family while playing soccer she felt more pressure to play perfectly.

“I heard things like, ‘Is she gonna make the team? Is she good enough?’ From people I didn’t even know. I just ignored it and thought ‘I’m gonna do [my thing] and play the sport that I love,’” Tianna said.

Despite obstacles of fitting in and dealing with people’s misconceptions about her race, Tianna has persevered through her career, and has built up a long history of competing in basketball and soccer.

Tianna has played soccer and basketball since she was two, and played both sports in a competitive club in kindergarten. Because she dedicates so much time to her athletics, Tianna often struggles with the balance of academics and athletics. With school and multiple practices per day, from start to finish there’s not much time for anything else. “I just have to figure out how to do homework and stay up. It’s rough,” Tianna said.

But that doesn’t change her love for both sports. “When I’m at soccer, I’m sad [that] I’m not at basketball, and when I’m at basketball I’m sad [that] I’m not at soccer. I love them both equally.”

She plans to play basketball in college, though. She admits that ideally, she’d be able to play both sports, but recognized the difficulty of that path. 

“I feel like if it was one of the nicer, top division one schools, I would have to choose one or the other,” she said. “I want to be better and grow everyday at one sport.”

Tianna has deep connections with her brother Trevon Chambers, a senior at Creek, who also plays varsity basketball. “We’re pretty close, it’s really gonna suck when he has to leave [for college],” she said.

Nicholle clearly sees the connection between her children. “They have so much love for each other and push each other to do better,” she said.

Sports take up a lot of time in this family. “Sports do impact family time but I think that’s why we cherish the times we have together the most.” Trevon Chambers said. 

Outside of messy schedules and games, the competitive factor between the two also has an impact on day-to-day family life. “Board games are very intense,” Nicholle said.

The siblings have lots of support from their parents. “Sometimes they can be really hard on us, but that’s what makes us who we are today. They’ve made us such good people, and good players and taught us how to be good teammates,” Tianna said.

She attributes her parents’ support to their own collegiate athlete careers. Her dad, Joshua Chambers, is from Panama and played on the national basketball team for several years. Her mom had an opportunity to play both volleyball and basketball at University of California, Los Angeles, but chose basketball.

One of Tianna’s favorite memories in her whole athletic career is with her dad. In eighth grade, her dad put a team together, made up mostly of girls on the Creek basketball team now. They went to Made Hoops, an elite middle school tournament, and won. 

Tianna also accredits her success to the familial feel between her teammates on the soccer and basketball teams. The current girls’ basketball team is very close and have played with each other for multiple years. “Some teams have issues, [but] not us. We’re never yelling at each other on the court, we always support each other,” Tianna said.

She attributes a lot of this to their former head coach, Clinton Evans, who resigned in early April. “He supports me a lot for doing both sports. He just made me a better player and person. I really look up to him and it sucks that he has to leave,” Tianna said.

Evans says the respect is mutual. “She plays as hard as she can all the time and plays with so much heart that she makes it impossible not to respect her,” he said. “She is an incredibly special person and I was blessed to have coached her.”