Athlete Leadership

Athlete Leadership and Unified Champion Schools Sponsor:

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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 PA VisionSOPA Vision Image

  • 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.

All current Class A Volunteers that are interested in becoming a Mentor can take a 30 minute Mentor Training in the online portal under the “Training Schools, Webinars and More” tab. This is training is a requirement for all Mentors prior to attending Athlete Leadership University. For anyone interested in becoming a Mentor that’s not a Class A volunteer, please click here to fill out the volunteer application.

Athlete Leadership Opportunities Include: 

Athlete Leadership University Sessions

In July, 2022, thanks to their continuous generosity, Sheetz has agreed to host two Athlete Leadership University sessions! The first will take place July 9th-10th with Athlete Representative and Global Messenger being offered. The second will be July 30th-31st offering Athlete Representative and Healthy Lifestyles. Please click here to check out more high level details and find out how you can register.

Athlete Leadership University Graduation

SOPA is proud to announce that it will be hosting its first in person Athlete Leadership University graduation ceremony since 2019! The ceremony will be taking place Saturday, August 27th at the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center from 5:00-8:00 PM.

In addition to recognizing this year’s graduating class, the classes of 2020 and 2021 will get an opportunity to walk as well. To see whose currently eligible to graduate from Athlete Leadership University, along with the members of the classes of 2020 and 2021, click here! If you believe you are eligible to graduate this year, please log into your profile in SOPA’s online portal. Once logged in, please go to the Athlete Leadership opportunities tab and select the role for the practicum you need to submit. Here are the requirements for all practicums. As a reminder, Athlete Representatives and Global Messengers only need to complete one course now:

  • Athlete Representative-Minimum of six capstone projects.
  • Global Messenger: Minimum of six speeches.
  • Health and Fitness Coordinator: Offering health and fitness club activities at least once a month for at least six months

If you have been confirmed eligible to graduate, please contact your Manager/Team Leader ASAP to register yourself, your Mentor and any other friends/family that wish to attend the ceremony via this form. The deadline to register is Friday, August 12th.

Athlete Leadership University

ATHLETE LEADERSHIP UNIVERSITY- Training offered to Athlete Leaders three times a year to further their knowledge base and provide certification in the below.

1.  Communications - Global Messengers (trained as public speakers for Special Olympics)

2.  Governance - Athlete Representatives (trained as spokespersons for Special Olympics)

3.  Health – Health and Fitness Coordinators (trained to incorporate better health and fitness habits into their local program).

In order to submit practicums for Athlete Leadership University courses, all Athlete Leaders must log into THEIR individual (not their mentor’s) profile in the Special Olympics Pennsylvania Online Portal. If the Athlete Leader is having difficulties logging in, they may select “Trouble Logging In” to retrieve User ID or “Forgot Password” to automatically have new password sent to their e-mail. Once logged in, Athlete Leaders must then go to the “Athlete Leadership Opportunities” tab and select the course(s) they wish to submit a practicum in. For questions regarding Athlete Leadership University practicums, please contact Jordan Schubert at

2018 Athlete Congress

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

ALU Interest Form