It was just after lunch time and Josh Butler, Derek Maloney, Michael Timberlake and Todd Renschler were warming up on the indoor tennis courts at Chestnut Forks.

They were practicing forehands, working on perfecting the serve. Nothing unusual, really, until you realize the four players' combined ages total 25 years.

Welcome to "tiny tots tennis," a unique three-week day camp program.

Monroe Baisden, the resident pro, learned of "tiny tots tennis" through instructor seminars taught by Dennis Van der Meer and Vic Braden. Both are considered leading teachers of the game.

"As long as it is kept fun - nothing serious - and simple," said Baisden, "the kids can develop their hand-eye and general coordination."

There is a sea of tennis balls on the court as the group of eight 6- and 7-year-olds begin the lesson.

The young players, all clad in tennis togs (no cut-off jeans for this group) begin by bouncing the ball on the court with the racket.

Next, each steps up to the service line and returns the ball with a forehand shot to Baisden. Several players cheat and move closer to the net, because some cannot see over the net.

Each player has a look of determination and a stuck-out tongue as he concentrates on hitting the ball. If a student misses, Baisden is quick to say, "My fault." When the ball is successfully returned he is equally as quick to say, "Nice one."

One youngster was so intent on hitting the ball, he kneeled down to pray to the bucket of balls.

Following the lesson, Todd Renschler, 6, shrugged and said, "I like it (tennis) some, but soccer is my favorite, 'cause I'm better at it."

Drew Farlye, also 6, said, "I played it before, I like serving." And then stared at his feet while tugging on his shorts and added, "I'm on a soccer team."

And with that they went swimming.

The program at Chestnut Forks stresses encouragement. There never is any formal competition with socres. The tennis is just part of the activities.

Soccer tends to help with the tennis because it improves a player's footwork.

Of course there is lunch and free time. And some of the youngsters actually want to go out again and practice forehands and backhands.