Middle States

Scaring Stress Away

January 21, 2021


Tennis matches can be stressful. So why not scare the stress away?

That’s at least the mindset of Lizzy Chiaravalli, a Philadelphia-based USTA League player who created a company with an edge: Ballgoyles


Ballgoyles are handmade, small clay balls designed to look like tennis balls. But of course, there are some differences.


“Well, first, they have faces,” she said with a laugh. “And they’re ugly faces.”


The purpose? Chiaravalli describes Ballgoyles as the perfect stress relief for players who deal with stress during tennis competition. Each is one-of-a-kind, as she recently wrote it in the popular magazine, SHAPE (you can read the full feature here). 


“After years of watching pros and amateurs alike fumble with anger and disappointment on the court, I realized I could do something to help,” she wrote in SHAPE. 

“That's when the idea for Ballgoyles came to me. I hit up an arts and crafts store and started sculpting these little tennis balls out of clay and painting on them the ugliest faces I could — I like to think of them as gargoyles that ward away all the heebie jeebies, nerves, and bad vibes you might get before or during a competitive match. When you're feeling stressed, you roll them in your hand to help banish any negative energy (almost like those zen meditation balls) so you can hit the ball as beautifully as you could in practice.”


Chiaravalli’s tennis experience dates back to her childhood. She began playing tennis as a kid, and after taking some time off in her 20s and 30s to start a family, she picked it back up again.


“Beginning to play again was one of the best things I ever did,” she said. “As a kid, I was too competitive. It actually hurt my tennis in a lot of ways. Now as an adult and with this business, my competitive side really drives me forward.”


Chiaravalli lives in Philadelphia with her husband and their two daughters, and now plays often alongside friends on a USTA League team, always looking for new ways to become involved and expand her business.


Not only has Ballgoyles become a fun side gig that she started in early 2020, it’s also a way for the entire family to work together. Chiaravalli’s husband (a graphic designer) created her website, and her oldest daughter (an artist) developed the logo. Her youngest daughter manages the Ballgoyles social media accounts.


“I love being able to incorporate the thing I love with the people I love,” she said. “I created Ballgoyles to help me ward off negative and nervous energy on the court, during matches. It started to build from there, and now, who knows how far it can go?”


Best of all: she’s enjoying each step of the way. The business is growing, even including merchandise and a line of golf-based items. 


“I've learned that owning your thoughts and taking control of them offers an escape — for me, that escape is on the tennis court, and now, in my studio when I sculpt these little balls.”

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