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Junior Academy


The Thunder Junior Academy Program is designed to provide high quality training and development opportunities for motivated and committed U6, U7 & U8 (2015, 2014, 2013 birth year) soccer players.

Thunder Junior Academy Program is the beginning stages of elite training for U6/U7/U8 players. The objective of this program is to provide every player with a structured, comprehensive training experience. Our curriculum is both age and skill appropriate.  Junior Academy is the stepping stone to the Thunder Academy program (U9-U12). After graduating from junior-academy all players will have the necessary tools to play academy soccer if they desire.

The Thunder Junior Academy Program focuses predominantly on individual technical skill development. We de-emphasize short term wins and losses and focus on playing the Thunder Way and long-term player development. The program focuses on developing players who understand the technical and tactical topics that prepare them for club soccer in their later years.

Junior Academy Philosophy

Our goal is to teach all our players the correct way to play with an emphasis on long term development rather than short-term wins/scoring goals.

Our philosophy is to develop technically skillful players who are comfortable with the ball at their feet. We promote a fun, challenging environment in which we encourage individual creativity.

We want players to be critical thinkers and make decisions on their own with little to no on field instructions from coaches and parents.

Pillars/Fundamentals of the game:

Technical Skills and Moves - players learn all turns, tricks and skills moves with both feet. Emphasis on repetition to improve proficiency and confidence. All players are trained to be dribblers first.

1v1 Attacking - lots of 1v1, 2v1, and 3v3 free play within each training session. We encourage players to use their skill moves in a game like scenario. Also to recognize the triangle shape and overloads in small sided games.

Triangle Support - developing the idea of supporting the player on the ball with multiple options creating triangle and diamond shapes. Encouraging players to play out of situations rather than just kicking it away or dribbling into pressure.

Critical Thinking/Problem Solving - we encourage players to think for themselves and solve soccer problems with their skills. Our coaches use guided discovery questions to guide players to the answers rather than just telling them the answer.


When assessments?

Assessments dates are usually held in late November & May and several dates throughout the summer.  Assessment information and online registration will be available on the Thunder website prior to the published tryout dates.

Supplemental assessments or evaluations can be scheduled throughout the year for any player who is not registered in another club’s Academy program, all registered recreational players, or any unregistered players.

Who is eligible?

The junior academy program is open to all boys and girls born in 2015, 2014, 2013.

When and where are the training sessions?

Junior Academy teams train 2 times a week on Monday and Wednesday at Auburn Thunder Soccer Complex in Auburn, Alabama

Training days, times are on Monday and Wednesday and start at 5:30 pm. 

Spring Season: Begins February 1
Fall Season : Begins August 1

When and where are the games?

Our Junior Academy Boys and Girls teams will play both 4v4 & 7v7 format. All teams will play a mixture of games against Thunder recreational program teams, in-house scrimmages, and other Junior Academy programs in the Auburn area.

Games are typically held on Saturdays and Sundays during the Fall season from early September through mid-November and the Spring season from early March to mid-May. Generally teams play one game per week, although occasionally players may be asked to play twice at the same location.

In addition to regular season games, Junior Academy teams will participate in 2-3 local tournaments per year. 

Game Schedule Example 
Game 1 : In - house Game (Thunder vs Thunder)
Game 2:  Opelika Soccer Club
Game 3: Opelika Soccer Club
Game 4: Red Star Soccer Club
Game 5:  Opelika Soccer Club
Game 6: Opelika Soccer Club
Game 7: Red Star Soccer Club
Game 8: Opelika Soccer Club
Game 9: Opelika Soccer Club
End of Season Tournament

What is the difference between Recreation and Academy Thunder Soccer?

Deciding whether or not your child should play recreational soccer or competitive (“academy/select”) soccer is often a daunting task for parents not familiar with the world of competitive sports. The primary deciding factor that parents should consider when making the academy verses recreation decision is whether or not one wishes to accelerate a child’s soccer development in a professionally guided training environment.

In recreational soccer, the focus is most often on social interaction, “having fun” with friends, which often comes at the expense of instruction. In academy soccer, the focus in on teaching in an enjoyable manner that is appropriate for the child’s age level. Individual skills and team tactics are taught by high-level, professional coaches in order to more fully develop the child’s level of play. When it comes to playing at an academy level, the end result is young athletes that know how to play soccer at a much higher level than their corresponding recreational players.

What are the differences between Academy Thunder coaches and Recreational coaches?

Academy soccer differs from recreational soccer in several ways, but the primary difference is in the level of coaching provided. Coaching is like teaching – it requires extensive knowledge of the subject and the ability to communicate that knowledge to young athletes. In recreational soccer, the coach is typically a noble parent with little or no competitive or high level soccer experience. Unlike recreation soccer, Academy coaches are experts in their field, skilled communicators and teachers, and are paid a professional salary.

Academy coaches are expected to create a community of players that supports the alignment of individual and team improvement by implementing club standards of play that are developmentally appropriate by age.  This requires continuous evaluation as well as a clear structure that is communicated effectively to the players and parents. 

Age Group Details & Cost
Spring 2021:

U6 (Born 2015) fee $375 (60 min training)
U7 (Born 2014) fee $375 (75 min training)
U8 (Born 2013) fee $435 (includes one tournament) (90 min training)

If you have any further questions please contact : 
Junior Academy Director Warren van der Westhuizen @ [email protected]




300 North Dean Road, Suite 5-184
Auburn, Alabama 36830

Phone: 404-713-5043
Email: [email protected]

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