Tennis anyone?

The place to go is My Little Tennis Club, which is offering a new tennis program that enables children as young as 3-years-old to take lessons. Peter Schaper has opened the new sports program in the Batting Cage sports facility, 420 Canfield Ave. in Black Rock. The sports facility is accessed off Brewster Street across from Showcase Cinema.

Schaper, who is certified by the U.S. Professional Tennis Association, offers Quickstart Tennis, a program endorsed by the International Tennis Federation, for youngsters 3 to 6, 7 to 9 or 9 to 11, taught in classes ranging from 45 to 60 minutes.

He teaches the lesson on a smaller court with appropriately sized racquets and soft lightweight low compression or oversized foam balls.

Schaper said the program is popular in European countries and country clubs where it has become a standard for starting young children in tennis who begin on courts with a low net. He will set up either of two courts; 18' by 36' for children up to age 8 and 21' by 60' for children 9 to 11.

"As the court size gets bigger, the rackets grow in length," said Schaper, who has been teaching tennis for the past 27 years

Children 3 to 6 years old begin on the 18' x 36' court using a lightweight foam ball and a 19" to 23" racquet. The 45-minute lessons focus on strokes, grips, and footwork with Schaper leading the youngsters in a variety of fun games to reinforce the skills. These lessons are offered during the day Monday through Friday and Saturday and Sunday mornings.

The next group, ages 7 to 9, use two different sizes of low compression balls with 23" to 25" racquets also on the smaller 18' x 36' court. The 45 to 60 minute lessons focus on grips, strokes, and footwork with a complement of strategies incorporated into the game activities. These lessons are offered after school on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and also on Saturday mornings.

The third group, made up of 9 to 11 year olds use 26" to 27" racquets, a green low compression ball on a 21' by 60' court with a regulation size net. The one-hour class focuses on strokes, footwork and grips along with strategy and tactics. These lessons are offered after school on Tuesday and Thursday and Saturday and Sunday mornings.

My Little Tennis Club schedules ten-week group sessions. In addition, private and semi-privates lesson are offered.

In addition to establishing his own tennis sports business, Schaper is director of Paddle Tennis at the Shorehaven Golf Club in Norwalk and is co-director of the summer tennis camps at Greens Farms Academy. Also, he has been teaching tennis at area sports facilities the past 20 years.

Schaper touts the benefits of tennis, not only for its skill sets and exercise but also for the social experience it offers young people. "Tennis helps your balance, coordination and listening skills. It teaches you to get along in group situations."

"It's a good family sport. It's a sport that is lifelong," said Schaper, noting that the sooner youngsters are introduced to the sport, the greater the chances of their staying with it.

My Little Tennis Club offers a Friday Night Pizza Party from 7 to 9 p.m. for children ages 6 to 15. Cost is $20 per child and includes pizza and a drink and an opportunity to play tennis, baseball and miniature golf in the facility.

In addition to the Friday night parties, the facility hosts birthday parties for up to ten children for two hours. Guests can enjoy either a two- or three-sport combination of tennis, baseball and miniature golf, plus pizza and a drink.

Schaper is a native of Weston where he won three state tennis titles while at Weston High School. He then went on to play Division I AA singles and doubles for Penn State his freshman year and then Auburn University his sophomore, junior and senior years. At Auburn, the tennis team achieved #6, 11 and 14 national team rankings.

While at college, Schaper majored in marketing and transportation management and for a few years took a job in industry before he followed his heart to work full-time in sports instruction, especially in the sport where he has achieved so much personal success. He finds his marketing skills very important in establishing his own business and in continuing his association with area sports facilities and clubs.

"I've been setting up programs for 27 years," said Schaper, who lives in Fairfield with his wife Ellen and two children, a son, Rhys 11, a student at Roger Sherman Elementary School, and daughter, Alexandra, 4.

Scahper speaks enthusiastically about the My Little Tennis Club for he believes with this current economy it offers parents a reasonably priced sports program that "doesn't lock someone in for the long term."

For further information, call the club at (203)521-6194 or send an e-mail to mylittle10sclub@optonline.net