“Student-athlete” is a revered term at BYU. But for Hailey Daniels Kray, it’s just one of many aspects of who she is. Other roles that could be added to the list include wife, daughter, friend, former BYU tennis player, juvenile arthritis fighter and advocate for mental health.
Krey’s tennis journey began at age 15. Knowing she wanted to eventually play tennis in college, she quickly began strengthening her skills and entered a variety of tournaments. Completely committed, Krey traveled to her first tournament. While the first day of the tournament went well, a decision was made when she was scheduled to compete on a Sunday.
“I didn’t feel like there was anything wrong with playing on Sunday,” Krey said. “I just felt really strongly that I shouldn’t.”
After opting to drop out, Krey realized the other tournaments were now out of the question. With Sunday’s play, Krey knew her only options were college tennis.
Krey continued her work toward college athletics. However, her decision in the face of the road to the roadblock is not the only decision on Sunday. After recognizing an increasing amount of pain in her hands, the young tennis player received the news that her life had changed.
Looking back, Krey notes that her parents said she always complained about her knees and other joints in pain. Pushing aside the feelings, she continued to live her life. It was not until she found out that the class was one day. With her hands at a point where it was difficult to write, Krey knew it was time to tell her parents.
After multiple consultations, the diagnosis came back as juvenile arthritis.
“After I was diagnosed, everything made sense,” Krey said. “When I remember a certain time I was in eighth grade and I woke up and my wrist was super swollen and I didn’t tell anybody about it.
The CDC defines arthritis as a disease that inflames or swells the joints. Juvenile arthritis often exhibits symptoms such as joint pain, swelling, fever, stiffness and daily activities such as walking, playing and even dressing.
The CDC also states that many of those diagnosed with juvenile arthritis can suffer permanent damage and occasionally disability. With this in mind, one can only imagine Krey’s emotions at age 15 upon her diagnosis.
“When I was younger I just held it a lot,” Krey said. “I think there was a lot of denial and there was a lot of excess. It was a lot of lonely. ”
Pushing through the emotions and challenges, and her goals towards persuading Krey.
Krey reached out to BYU – Hawaii’s head coach and a spot on the Seasiders ’tennis team, where she returned to her mission and another on the season. Krey said building relationships and teammates around the world and playing the game made many memories and lifelong friendships.
BYU tennis player Leah Heimuli described Krey as a “ray of sunshine” and a major positive influence on the team.
“Even when she’s having a tough day, she’s always out to help others,” Heimuli said. “Everybody is like a candle, and then everyone is kind of motivated because they just see what a person is like and how it can influence the entire team.”
Unfortunately for Krey, BYU – Hawaii announced the closure of all athletic programs in the school in 2017. Though Krey had a year of eligibility remaining, her career was looking as if she was nearing the end.
That is, until a chance call came in the form of a phone call from BYU.
When Coach Dave Porter had served as a tennis coach at BYU – Hawaii since 1984. When the program was shut down, Porter made the move from BYU’s to an assistant position in BYU’s tennis program.
Kray had a close relationship with Porter, and after one phone call she was engaged to continue playing. After trying out for the team, Krey was welcomed and played with the rest of the Cougars.
“It was kind of surreal because I remember when I was 15 years old, I made the first goal and I went to a BYU tennis camp,” Krey said. “I remember playing a match on one of their indoor courts and standing on the Y and I said, ‘I’m going to be here one day.'”
As she recalled, one of her first practices, Krey shared, “I just remembered that 15-year-old girl who had that dream, and how it was just like I made it.”
While at BYU, tennis was the only thing Krey put into her heart and soul. As a student of the entrepreneurship program, Krey helped create an app called The Ascendant Tracker.
According to its website, “The Ascendant Tracker gives (users) control by giving them something they can actively do when they experience anxiety, depression, trauma, etc., which helps them to become more aware of their mental health symptoms. We then collect the data through patterns of their mental health to help them visualize them more easily. This data can be used to connect with loved ones to increase awareness and awareness of loved ones. Therapeutic sessions with therapist to increase efficiency in therapy sessions. ”
For Krey, this app is a project of love and stems from wanting to help others in their battle with mental health. The challenges that an autoimmune disorder brings along with tennis. According to Krey, she has only been in trouble for the last five years and she’s been struggling emotionally through some of her challenges.
“When you’re literally gone through hell, it’s amazing how much empathy you can extend to someone,” Krey said. “You may not be on the same path, but some of my best experiences have been made by someone who has been through so much. I can totally relate to a lot of their feelings when they’re diagnosed with a chronic illness. ”
As an advocate for everyone with mental health challenges, Krey explained it can often be difficult for athletes to maintain a healthy mindset.
According to an article posted by Athletes for Hope, 33% of college students express struggles with mental health. In comparison, the same article noted that up to 35% of all elite athletes find themselves suffering from mental health issues.
Ofa Hafoka, a BYU psychologist who works with athletes and collegiate athletics when participating in the arise of those mental health battles.
Hafoka said it’s often difficult for athletes to take self-worth on their time off the athletic stage. She said her advice to athletes in therapy is “just starting with no matter what the outcome, no matter what the outcome is, I’m still the same person.”
Thoughts she’s moved from college athletics to the world of mental health on her journey. Redefining success has been a key.
“Success to me is about living a happy life and feeling fulfilled and doing what I do every day and having the freedom to do that,” Krey said.
As Krey continues her journey as an advocate for arthritis and mental health, she looks after a career in medical tech. She looks to the future for excitement with what’s to come.