Athlete Training is an integral part of the Special Olympics program. One of the founding principles of the Special Olympics movement states that “People with intellectual disabilities can, with proper instruction and encouragement, enjoy, learn and benefit from participation in individual and team sports. Consistent training under the guidance of qualified coaches, with emphasis on physical conditioning, is essential to the development of sports skills.”
Every Special Olympics athlete should be a part of a local training program that practices no less than 8 weeks within the respective sport season. It is proven at every Special Olympics tournament, event or competition, that the athletes who trained and who are prepared are those who perform to the best of their ability. Training is also important, as it not only prepares athletes from competition but also allows them the opportunity to socialize and be with friends.
Sample training sessions are available for all sports through the Special Olympics Sports Skills Guides. A Sports Skills Guide can be obtained by visiting www.specialolympics.org.
Persons are eligible for Special Olympics provided that they are eight years of age or older and:
- Have been identified by an agency or professional as having an intellectual disability as determined by their localities;
- Have a cognitive delay, as determined by standardized measures such as intelligent quotient or ‘IQ” testing or other measures that are generally accepted within the professional community in that Accredited Program as being a reliable measurement of the existence of a cognitive delay;
- Have a closely related developmental disability. A “closely” related developmental disability means having functional limitations in both general learning (such as IQ) and in adaptive skills (such as in recreation, work, independent living, self-direction, or self-care). However, persons whose functional limitations are based solely on a physical behavioral, or emotional disability, or a specific learning or sensor disability, are not eligible to participate as Special Olympics athletes, but may be eligible to volunteer.
Athletes the age of six and seven may train and compete at the local level but not at the state level. Once eligibility is determined, an athlete should contact their local program and must submit a registration form and a medical form.
Young Athletes Program (athletes age 2.5 – 7 years old)
The Young Athletes Program was established by Special Olympics International to provide early developmental opportunities for pre-school children, utilizing guided motor activities. The activities presented in the program are designed to advance development of young children with intellectual disability who typically lag their peers without intellectual disability. Please contact your local program director to see if the Young Athlete program is available in your area.