Become an Athlete
Every day, Special Olympics athletes demonstrate courage, adhering to the Special Olympics athlete’s oath, "Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."
Nearly 20,000 athletes from 56 area and county programs across Pennsylvania train and compete in Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA) each year. Participation in Special Olympics training and competitive events is open to all people with intellectual disabilities regardless of their degree of challenge. Athletes age 8 and older may participate in Special Olympics training programs and competitions. Athletes can continue to compete for the rest of their lives.
To be eligible to participate in Special Olympics, athletes must have an intellectual disability; a cognitive delay, or a development disability, that is, functional limitations in both general learning and adaptive skills. Participation in Special Olympics starts at age 8 years, and there’s no maximum age limit. Children with intellectual disabilities ages 2 through 7 can take part in the Young Athletes program, either at home or through a nearby Special Olympics program. People without intellectual disabilities can take part in Unified Sports, teams that mix people with and without intellectual disabilities.
If you are interested in becoming an athlete, please contact the local Program nearest to you.
Please note that before an athlete can begin Special Olympics sports training, the athlete's parent/guardian must complete an Application for Participation for participation. A signature from authorized medical personnel is required on the form. Authorized medical personnel to include CRNPs, FNPs, and PAs (in addition to MDs and DOs already authorized). The form must be updated every three years.
Submit the completed athlete participation form to your local program coordinator.
By participating in Special Olympics, athletes:
- Gain self-confidence and self-esteem
- Experience friendship on and off the field
- Are perceived as competent by their families, coaches and event spectators
- Enjoy being part of the large Special Olympics social network
- Receive much needed health screenings
- Are more physically active even outside SO activities
- Are more likely to hold jobs in the community
- Are more likely to socialize with non-disabled peers