Athlete Leadership

Athlete Leadership and Unified Champion Schools Sponsor:

Aramark H RedandBlack R

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.

April Athlete Leadership University Session!

On Saturday, April 22nd, SOPA will be hosting its first Athlete Leadership University session of 2023! This session will be Healthy Lifestyles, which is training to become a Health and Fitness Coordinator. A Health and Fitness Coordinator is an athlete that leads walking and other health and fitness club activities throughout the year for athletes, volunteers and family members of all ages and abilities!

To find out more about the Health and Fitness Coordinator role and the session on April 22nd, please click the registration information packet. In order to attend, all Athlete Leaders will require approval from their program manager/team leader. If you do not know who your program manager/team leader is, you can find their name and contact info on the find a program tab. Once approved, Athlete Leader and Mentor may then register themselves right here. The deadline to register is Friday, March 24th.

As an extra incentive, each Athlete Leader/Mentor pair will receive a $50 WaWa Gift card that they can use while in transit back from this session and/or any time afterwards!

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