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Please use the information listed below when taking the General Session Online Training Test.

All volunteers must have General Session training (formerly known as General Orientation) at least once during their SO volunteer experience. This session DOES NOT have to be repeated with every certification for coaching.

This basic introduction to Special Olympics Pennsylvania covers:

  • Special Olympics Mission and Philosophy
  • Athlete Eligibility
  • Administrative Duties of a Coach

Questions? Contact 610-630-9450


The mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for persons eight years of age and older with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy, and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes, and the community.


  • Special Olympics was founded on the belief that people with intellectual disability can, with proper instruction and encouragement, learn, enjoy and benefit from participation in individual and team sports.
  • The community-at-large, both through participation and observation, is united in understanding people with intellectual disability in an environment of equality, respect and acceptance.
  • Coaching philosophy is to maximize an athlete's sport potential rather than win at all cost.

Special Olympics Oaths

Athlete’s Oath
“Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Coach’s Oath
"In the name of all coaches, we shall follow written and verbal instructions of Special Olympics officials at all times, have our athletes at the appropriate events and activities at the proper time and abide by the rules and policies, in the spirit of sportsmanship."

Top Five Facts About Special Olympics

  • Year-round program of sports training & competition in 21 Olympic-type sports and three emerging sports, not just a once-a-year track & field event. An athlete must train for a minimum of 8 weeks prior to competing.
  • For children & adults with intellectual disabilities. Athletes of all ability levels train & compete.
  • In keeping with the Special Olympics philosophy, training, abiding by sport rules, honest effort rule and divisioning are components of a competitive approach to competition.
  • Not funded by U.S. or PA Government or Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation. Raise funds at all levels from individuals, corporations, foundations, and special events.
  • World’s largest amateur sports organization with over 3.1 million people with intellectual disabilities in 175 countries. No training fees to any athletes or families; no entrance fees for events to anyone; & coaches & officials volunteer their time.

SOPA Organizational Chart

Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA) is the accrediting body for 56 area, county and city programs within Pennsylvania.

  • The individuals who act as area and county managers and comprise their management teams are primarily volunteers. They raise funds, oversee other volunteers, and help recruit athletes, while providing the all-important training and competition opportunities for their local athletes.
James Binz, Field Dir.

Kristen Lenig, Field Dir.

Jack Hasson, Filed Dir.

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Western Programs Central Programs Eastern Programs


Mike Ermer, Comp. Dir.

Teresa Amaturo, Comp. Dir.

Gina Reid, Sr. Comp. Dir.

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Western Competitions Central Competitions Eastern Competitions


Special Olympics Pennsylvania Seasons

Winter Sports

  • Alpine Skiing
  • Cross Country (Nordic) Skiing
  • Figure Skating
  • Floor Hockey
  • Snowshoeing
  • Speed Skating and Unified Speed Skating

Summer Sports

  • Aquatics (Swimming) and Unified Aquatics
  • Athletics (Track & Field)
  • Basketball and Unified Basketball
  • Bowling and Unified Bowling
  • Equestrian
  • Golf
  • Gymnastics (Artistic & Rhythmic)
  • Softball and Unified Softball
  • Tennis

Fall Sports

  • Bocce and Unified Bocce
  • Long Distance Running & Walking and Unified LDR/LDW
  • Powerlifting
  • Roller Skating (Artistic, Speed)
  • Soccer
  • Volleyball and Unified Volleyball

Additional Programs


  • Motor Activities Training Program is designed for persons with severe or profound intellectual disabilities who are unable to participate in Official Special Olympics sport competitions because of their skill and/or functional abilities.

Unified Sports®

  • Team members include partners without intellectual disabilities

Young Athletes

  • Innovative sports play program for children with intellectual disabilities, two to seven years of age, designed to introduce them to world of sports prior to Special Olympics eligibility at age eight.

Sports Camp

  • Week long intensive sports camp currently offered at Antiochian Village in Westmoreland County.

Camp Shriver

  • Day sports camp currently offered in Philadelphia.


  • Eight years of age or older to compete
  • Identified by an agency or professional as having an intellectual disability or developmental disabilities in two or more areas - see online eligibility statement
  • Registered to participate in Special Olympics (Application for Participation)
  • Athletes with Atlanto-Axial Instability cannot participate in the following sports:
    • Alpine skiing
    • Artistic Gymnastics
    • Diving, diving starts and butterfly
    • Squat in Powerlifting
    • Equestrian
    • High Jump and Pentathlon in Athletics
    • Soccer with the exception of individual skills competition

Sports Rules

  • Based on International and National Governing Body Rules
  • Govern all Special Olympics competitions
  • Contain few modifications – Refer to Special Olympics rules (available online)
  • Awards are provided to all athletes who compete
  • Fair competition’s ensured by unique divisioning system based on sex, ability, & age
  • Variety of opportunities is provided for all ability levels
  • All ability levels are eligible for advancement to higher levels of competition


  • Athletes are divided into competition based on their ability, age, and gender.
  • Divisions should be structured so that the difference between the best scores and the worst scores does not exceed 10 percent.
  • In team sports competitions, a round of games is played to determine competitive divisions.
  • Generally, a division shall consist of a minimum of three and a maximum of eight competitors or teams.

Honest Effort Rule

  • Athletes, partners, and coaches who do not participate honestly and with maximum effort in all events, or in a sportsmanlike manner, will be disqualified from current and possibly future events.
  • In most timed/measured individual sports, athletes scoring 25 percent faster/better than their best time/score (either preliminary or entry score) will not receive a participation award.

Coach - Position Descriptions

  • Head Coach – Overall responsibility for the team. Develops the training plans, organizes practices, supervises assistant coaches and volunteers, and accompanies athletes to competitions. Must be a certified Special Olympics coach.
  • Assistant Coaches – Helps the head coach plan and conduct practices and supervises athletes at trainings and competitions.
  • Volunteers – Assigned to various tasks such as taking attendance to being a locker monitor.

Most Important Role of the Coach

  • Ensure the Safety and Proper Supervision of Special Olympics athletes at all times during all activities.
  • A ratio of at least one coach to every four athletes is required at Special Olympics training and competitions.

Volunteer Registration

  • All volunteers must register by completing a online Volunteer Registration Application.
  • Class A volunteers (i.e. coach) must complete a PA State Criminal Record Check (CRC).
  • Class A volunteers (i.e. coach) must complete an ONLINE Protective Behaviors Training every three years.

Blood-Borne Contagious Infection or Virus

  • It is neither necessary nor justifiable to discriminate against any individual having ordinary behavior on the basis that they are carriers of a blood-borne contagious infection.
  • Participants may have a blood-borne contagious infection that is new and unknown, therefore, universal precautions need to be used for every exposure to anyone’s blood, saliva or other bodily fluid.
  • Special Olympics recommends that blood and body fluid precautions be consistently used for all people regardless of their blood-borne infection status, known, unknown or speculated.
  • The practice is referred to as "Universal Blood and Body Fluid Precautions" or "Universal Precautions." (i.e. Personal hygiene- soap/water, Personal protective equipment- gloves and face mask and Equipment cleaning and disinfecting -clorox/water.)

How to Become a Certified Coach

  • Complete General Orientation & Protective Behaviors ONLINE Training.
  • Attend a sport specific training school.
  • Submit a Sport Training Application indicating 10 hours of practical training with athletes.
  • To maintain coach certification there is a 3 Year Continuing Education Requirement. As long as a coach completes continuing education training, his/her certification will be renewed every 3 years. For a complete list of courses which will meet the Continuing Education requirement of the SOPA Coach Education Program, please click here.  



  • Please take the General Orientation Quiz  to test your knowledge of general orientation. If you give any incorrect answers, please retake the quiz until you answer all the questions correctly.
  • By submitting your name and contact information to Special Olympics Pennsylvania, you are confirming that you have read and understand the information presented in this program.