Special Olympics is unique in that it accommodates competitors at all ability levels by assigning them to competition divisions based on previous performances or preliminary heats. In this way, all athletes get a chance to compete against others of equal ability.
- We follow the National Governing Body rules of each sport.
- Athletes train prior to competition.
- Qualified coaches train participants.
- Sports are adapted to allow athletes of all ability levels to participate.
- Athletes compete in divisions made up of individuals with equal ability levels. (typically no less than 3 and never more than 8)
Athletes are divided by gender. Female athletes compete against other female athletes and male athletes against other male athletes. When a relay team consists of both male and female athletes, the team is considered a "male" team and competes in a male division.Step 2:
Athletes are then divided by age. This is an athletes age on the opening date of the competition. Age Groups 8-11 * 12-15 * 16-21 * 22-29 * 30+Step 3:
To complete the division process, athletes are then divided by ability. In some instances age groups need to be broadened. In those cases, athletes within the new age groups will be re-ranked and grouped into divisions. This process must be repeated until the highest and lowest scores within each division are as similar as possible
- All participants receive an award.
- Athletes and family members are not charged a fee to participate.
- Athletes who meet specified training requirements are eligible for Local, Area, and State Games.
- World Games are held every two years on odd years with Winter Games and Summer Games alternating. Competitors from the United States participate as part of Special Olympics USA.
- National Games are conducted every four years on even numbered years.
- Athletes eligible for National and World Games must complete an application and are chosen by a random draw.
To Become An Athlete
Athlete/Unified Partner Code of Conduct
Special Olympics is committed to the highest ideals of sport and expects all athletes to honor sports and Special Olympics. All Special Olympics athletes and Unified Sports ® Partners agree to the following code*.
- I will practice good sportsmanship.
- I will act in ways that bring respect to me, my coaches, my team and Special Olympics.
- I will not use bad language.
- I will not swear or insult other persons.
- I will not fight with other athletes, coaches, volunteers or staff.
Training and Competition
- I will train regularly.
- I will learn and follow the rules of my sport.
- I will listen to my coaches and the officials and ask questions when I do not understand.
- I will always try my best during training, divisioning and competitions.
- I will not "hold back" in preliminary competition just to get into an easier finals competition division.
Responsibility for My Actions
- I will not make inappropriate or unwanted physical, verbal or sexual advances on others.
- I will not smoke in non-smoking areas.
- I will not drink alcohol or use illegal drugs at Special Olympics events.
- I will not take drugs for the purpose of improving my performance.
- I will obey all laws and Special Olympics rules, as well as the International Federation and National Federation/Governing Body rules for my sport(s).
I understand that if I do not obey this Code of Conduct, I will be subject to a range of consequence by my Program or a Games Organizing Committee for a World Games, up to and including not being allowed to participate.