Hailey Krey: Advocate, founder, former women’s tennis player

“Student-athlete” is a revered term at BYU. But for Hailey Daniels Krey, 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 tournament’s first day went well, a decision came 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.”

Hailey Krey celebrates with her high school coaches. “Student-athlete” is just one of many titles for Krey. (Photo courtesy of Hailey Krey)

After opting to drop out of the tournament, Krey realized other tournaments were now out of the question as each one took place on a Sunday. With the commitment to not participate in Sunday play, Krey knew her only options for college tennis were BYU and BYU–Hawaii.

Krey continued to work toward her goal of college athletics. However, the decision to not play on Sunday wouldn’t be the only roadblock to face in her path. After recognizing an increasing amount of pain in her hands, the young tennis player received news that would change her life. 

Looking back, Krey notes that her parents said she had always complained about pain in her knees and other joints. Pushing the feelings aside, she continued to live her life normally. It wasn’t until she was taking notes in class one day that she realized something wasn’t right. With the pain in 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. 

Juvenile arthritis is an inflammatory disease that affects joints, eyes and internal organs. Information for this infographic came from the Arthritis Foundation. (Made in Canva by Ashtyn Hill Salazar)

“After I was diagnosed, everything made sense,” Krey said. “I remember a specific time when I was in eighth grade and I woke up and my wrist was super swollen and I didn’t tell anybody about it but I just wrapped my wrist and wore a little brace and just dealt with it.”

The CDC defines arthritis as a disease that inflames or swells the joints. Juvenile arthritis often displays itself in symptoms such as joint pain, swelling, fever, stiffness and a hard time in daily actions such as walking, playing and even dressing. 

The CDC also states that many of those diagnosed with juvenile arthritis can suffer permanent damage to the joints 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 in a lot,” Krey said. “I think there was a lot of denial and there was a lot of overwhelm. It was a lot of lonely.”

Pushing through the emotions and challenges, Krey committed to continue toward her goals. 

Krey reached out to BYU–Hawaii’s head coach and was offered a spot on the Seasiders’ tennis team, where she played for a season prior to her mission and another upon returning. Krey said building relationships with teammates around the world and playing the game made for many memories and lifelong friendships.

BYU tennis player Leah Heimuli described Krey as a “ray of sunshine” and a major positive influence for the team.

“Even when she’s having a tough day she’s always seeking out how to help others,” Heimuli said. “Having one person like that just kind of lights a candle like a fire under everyone, because then everyone is kind of motivated because they just see what one person is like and how it can influence the entire team.”

Hailey Krey, fourth from left, hangs out with her tennis team at BYU–Hawaii. (Photo courtesy of Hailey Krey)

Unfortunately for Krey, BYU–Hawaii announced the closure of all athletic programs for the school in 2017. Though Krey had a year of eligibility remaining, her career started looking as if it were near the end.

That is, until an opportunity came knocking in the form of a phone call from BYU.

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 the islands to Provo for an assistant position in BYU’s tennis program.

Krey had a close relationship with Porter, and after one phone call she was committed to continue playing. After trying out for the team, Krey was welcomed and played her remaining season with the Cougars.

“It was kind of surreal because I remember when I was 15 years old, I first made the 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 told myself, ‘I’m going to be here one day.'”

As she recalled the emotions of 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.”

Hailey Krey practices on the BYU tennis courts. Krey came to BYU with one season left after BYU–Hawaii announced the closure of all athletic programs for the school in 2017. (BYU Photo)

While at BYU, tennis wasn’t the only thing Krey put her heart and soul into. As a student of the entrepreneurship program, Krey helped create an app called The Ascendant Tracker. 

As defined on its website, “The Ascendant Tracker gives (users) control by giving them something they can actively do when feeling symptoms of anxiety, depression, trauma, etc., which also helps them become more aware of their mental health symptoms. We then help them easily visualize the patterns of their mental health through the data we gather. This data can be connected with loved ones to help increase understanding and awareness for the loved one. The data can also be shared with a therapist to increase efficiency in therapy sessions.”

The Ascendant Tracker app helps users visualize their mental health. Krey helped create this app when she was a student in the BYU entrepreneurship program. (The Ascendant Tracker)

For Krey, this app is a project of love and stems from wanting to help others in their battle with mental health. Having a career in tennis along with fighting an autoimmune disorder brings challenges. According to Krey, she feels it has only been in the last five years that she’s been able to emotionally work through some of the challenges she was faced with at a young age.

“When you’ve literally gone through hell, it’s amazing how much empathy you can extend to someone who is also going through hell,” Krey said. “You may not have walked on the same path, but some of my best experiences that have made me actually grateful for everything that I’ve been through have been when I’ve been talking to someone who feels so lost. I can totally relate to a lot of their feelings when they’re newly diagnosed with a chronic illness.”

An advocate for everyone struggling 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 expressed struggles with mental health. In comparison, the same article noted up to 35% of all elite athletes also find themselves suffering from mental health issues.

Ofa Hafoka, a BYU psychologist who works specifically with athletes, noted the mental health battles that arise when participating in collegiate athletics.

Hafoka said it’s often difficult for athletes to separate self-worth from their time on the athletic stage. She said her advice to athletes in therapy is “just starting with no matter what the outcome is, no matter what the result is, I am still the same person.”

Though she’s moved on from the world of college athletics, the passion remains for her journey on the road of mental health. Redefining success has been a key for Krey.

“Success to me is living a happy life and feeling fulfilled in what I’m doing every day and having the freedom to do that,” Krey said.

As Krey continues on her journey serving as an advocate for arthritis and mental health, she looks to maintain a career in medical tech. She looks to the future with excitement for what is to come.

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