Athlete Leadership

Goal of Special Olympics

The ultimate goal of Special Olympics is to help persons with intellectual disabilities participate as productive and respected members of society by offering them a fair opportunity to develop and demonstrate their skills and talents through sports training and competition, and by increasing the public's awareness of their needs and capabilities.

Athlete Leadership Value Statement

Special Olympics empowers athletes to become contributing and respected members of society. We support athlete leaders both on and off the playing field.

Purpose of Athlete Leadership  

The goal of Athlete Leadership is to empower athletes to develop leadership skills and utilize their voices and abilities to assume meaningful leadership roles, influence change within the Special Olympics movement, and create inclusive communities around the world. Check out our Athlete Leadership One Page Snapshot.

    Athlete Leadership on YouTube!

Definition of Athlete Leadership 

Through organized training and practical experiences, Athlete Leadership prepare athletes for meaningful positions of influence and leadership throughout the Special Olympics organization, both on and off the playing field.


Special Olympics Pennsylvania Vision

  • To strive to be an athlete-led and athlete-centric organization
  • To enable athletes, families, volunteers and the community at large to see athletes in leadership roles EVERYWHERE throughout Special Olympics programs
  • To change the perception of our athlete leaders
  • To equip athletes with the skills and abilities to lead our organization and others

Athlete Leadership Roles & Trainings: Overview of Athlete Leadership courses based on the University model which are taken around a major in communications, governance, sports and/or health. In addition, reviews roles athletes can purse following completion of Athlete Leadership University.

Athletes with the proper training and coaching can lead us into the future.   Athlete Leaders within all levels of our program have strong voices, a desire to get involved, and a better understanding of what their needs are and where we should be heading as an organization.

Athlete Leadership Mentor

Athlete Leaders in all roles, regardless of age and ability, must have a Mentor that’s a current Class A Volunteer. A Mentor could be a family member, coach or anyone else an athlete has a good existing relationship with that’s not an athlete. As a Mentor, one must be willing and able to provide their Athlete Leader with whatever support they need before, during and after training at Athlete Leadership University for as long as the athlete wishes to serve in the role.

The core of a successful Mentor experience is the relationship with the Athlete Leader. Understanding of the athlete’s reading, writing and speaking abilities enables the Mentor to provide better support and guidance where needed. Staying in touch at least monthly and always valuing the Athlete Leader’s opinions provides the foundation. The Mentor also provides constructive feedback and facilitates transportation and technology support as needed. Mentors also help create the environment for success by working with parents, caretakers, and Special Olympics volunteers to ensure they understand Athlete Leadership and the goals of your Athlete Leader.

Interested in becoming a mentor to a Special Olympics athlete?
All current Class A Volunteers that are interested in becoming a Mentor are encouraged to watch this Mentor Training video to understand how to effectively work with their Athlete Leader(s). For anyone that is not currently a Class A Volunteer that would like to become a Mentor, please visit the Become a Volunteer tab to learn how to become one!

Athlete Leadership University

Special Olympics Pennsylvania offers three different types of Athlete Leadership University trainings to athletes ages 16+ of all abilities. These trainings are:

1) Athlete Representative: An Athlete Representative is someone that wants to not only lead a conversation, but also is willing to take action and speak on behalf of all athletes.

Athlete Representative Leadership Opportunity Report Form

Athlete Representative Leadership Opportunity Submission Spreadsheet
      o To see what you have submitted, sort Column B from A-Z to organize by name.

Athlete Leadership Team Guidebook
      o A guide to all Athlete Representatives to help them, their Mentor, Team Leader and other athletes/volunteers determine what they need to start a new Athlete Leadership Team and/or improve an existing one.

2) Global Messenger: A Global Messenger is someone who of course enjoys to talk! It should also be someone passionate who can easily sell Special Olympics to others!

Global Messenger Leadership Opportunity Report Form

Global Messenger Leadership Opportunity Submission Spreadsheet
     o To see what you have submitted, sort Column B from A-Z to organize by name.

Athlete Recruitment Handout and Volunteer Recruitment Handout
o Will help Global Messenger and Mentor keep track of how many potential athletes/volunteers they speak to at events. Additionally, these are to be shared with appropriate volunteers/staff to follow up with the individuals that expressed interest.

Talking Points for Athlete/Volunteer Recruitment and Talking Points for Fundraising
     o This will help Global Messengers provide their audience with appropriate facts directly from SOPA to help better explain why they should consider following through on the ask of their speech.

3) Healthy Lifestyles (The training to become a Health and Fitness Coordinator): A Health and Fitness Coordinator is an athlete committed to promoting healthier lifestyles for athletes, unified partners, coaches and families. Their primary responsibility is offering year round health and fitness clubs at least once a month to people of all ages and abilities.

Healthy Lifestyles Leadership Opportunity Report Form

Healthy Lifestyles Leadership Opportunity Submission Spreadsheet
     o To see what you have submitted, sort Column B from A-Z to organize by name.

Health and Fitness Coordinator Tracking
     o Will help Health and Fitness Coordinator and Mentor keep track of how many athletes and volunteers participate in monthly Health and Fitness Club activities.

One Year Walking Club Schedule
     o A recommended schedule for Health and Fitness Coordinators to help them plan out walking club activities throughout the year. This is inclusive of warm-up, the walk and cool-down.

Alternate Health and Fitness Club Activities
      o Once a Health and Fitness Coordinator has offered multiple walking clubs as a part of their Health and Fitness Club Activities, they may consider other activities based on time of year and what is available locally and other factors.

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
     o A list of questions and answers for immediate reference for any athlete that is/wishes to become a Health and Fitness Coordinator as well as for Mentors and other volunteers/staff supporting them.

Post-Training Expectations
SOPA has different post-training expectations for each Athlete Leadership role. In this document, you will find a list of required Leadership Opportunities, instructions for submission, online spreadsheets to help keep track of what you have submitted, personal resources and the process of being recognized following completion of 6 Leadership Opportunities!

For more information on all things Athlete Leadership related, please contact Jordan Schubert at jschubert@specialolympicspa.org. If you are interested in becoming an Athlete Leader yourself, please fill out the Athlete Leadership University Interest Form

ALU Interest Form

Athlete Leadership and Unified Champion Schools Sponsor

Aramark H RedandBlack R