Kaitlin Ray walks with a slight limp, the burden of a walking boot traveling with her everywhere. But if one just looked at her face while she was on the court, there would be no sign that the sophomore was out with tendonitis – Ray is all smiles in her natural environment.
“The tennis court is the only place on Earth where I totally feel at peace. So it’s my way to escape for awhile,” Ray said.
And while she can’t stand to be off the tennis court as her team closes the season in the NCAA tournament, Ray, a communication studies student, seeks to eventually apply her skills from tennis to the broadcasting booth.
From a young age, Ray has had a love for sports instilled in her by her father, whom she calls one of her greatest supporters. She describes having been her dad’s “little sidekick,” watching sports with him often; even still, she wakes up and falls asleep watching SportsCenter.
Ray’s love for sports that drives her desire to become a sports broadcaster is evident to her friends and teammates.
“Kaitlin will turn on SportsCenter in the background while she’s studying. She loves it. She knows all about it. She knows way more than I do,” said sophomore Robin Anderson.
This deep love for sports from a young age has likewise driven Ray to excel in competitive environments, including the tennis court.
She also said that part of what pushes her so much in school is that her desired major is competitive to get into. It is impacted, which means she has to maintain a high GPA to be accepted.
Ray chose tennis over her other childhood sports – soccer and gymnastics. She believes her experience in tennis will help her approach her career with a competitive attitude.
“I loved the individual aspect of tennis – because on the court, you live or die by what you do. So I liked the responsibility and the pressure that came with that,” Ray said.
Ray aspires to play professional tennis, and continue competing on the court for as long as possible before she transitions to a career in broadcasting. She remains aware that eventually she will have to live a life without tennis, but plans to prepare for that time by working hard in school for her later aspiration.
“As the season has shown, you’ll never know what tomorrow will bring. And so, tennis can be taken away from you in a second. That’s why I’m happy I’ve taken academics seriously from day one,” Ray said.
Ray has managed to put a high priority on academics, with a full understanding that she is building a path for her future. However, she believes that it will not just be her efforts in school that will translate to life after tennis. She believes that her life in tennis has prepared her well for many of the obstacles and adversities she will face afterward.
“Later in life, there are real consequences once we enter the real world. And I’ll be able to apply that later. There’s no other feeling like having people depend on you, or having the confidence, when you’re down 5-4 in the 3rd (set), to hit your shot,” Ray said. “I think all of that will really come in handy.”
Coach Stella Sampras Webster said she has witnessed Ray’s tireless work ethic on and off the court. She said the effort Ray brings to practice every day and her preparation will serve her well in life after tennis.
“She doesn’t take any shortcuts with her tennis or her schoolwork. … Every day of practice, she never has a bad day of practice as far as her attitude. … She’s using everything she has. She’ll never have any regrets,” Sampras Webster said.
Although Ray is often preoccupied with her academic and athletic commitments, the sophomore said she is seeking internships or work experience at either Pac-12 Network or Fox Sports. She wants to gain experience in front of the camera so she can gauge how comfortable she is in that position.
Ray hopes she can play professional tennis, and that eventually she can attain a name of recognition that will allow her a first step into the media industry; specifically, she said she aspires to one day work at ESPN. But in the meantime, she is doing her best to balance academics and athletics.
“Unfortunately, my tennis career will end one day. The time will come when it’s time for me to put the rackets up,” Ray said. “I have the opportunity to play on a great team, but I’m getting a great education at the same time. So whenever that time comes when I have to give up tennis, I’ll have a great foundation for the career I want to get into.”