Training Schools & Webinars

If you have been looking for an opportunity to coach Special Olympics Athletes, start the process by becoming a certified coach.  Familiarize yourself with Steps for Becoming and Staying a Certified Coach.

Steps for Becoming A Coach

Step 1: Courses for all Coaches (assistant and head coaches) - Whether you are a new or seasoned coach, the following three trainings must be up to date in your record:

  • Complete a SOPA Volunteer Application and Class A Background Checks (for 18 and over).
  • General Orientation – Click here for Online Training. This is a general introduction to Special Olympics and any new volunteer or coach should take this training prior to working with athletes.
  • Protective Behavior Training – Online Training that must now be completed every three years. Available by clicking here, this training must be completed by all new and existing Class A volunteers (16 years of age and older) prior to working with Special Olympics athletes.
  • Concussion Training  Online Training that must now be completed every three years. Available by clicking here, this training must be completed by all new and existing Coaches prior to working with Special Olympics athletes.
  • Athletes as Coaches  Prior to the start of every sports season, SOPA will offer a one hour webinar for any athlete interested in becoming a coach to learn what they should expect. These webinars are 100% optional, however, they are highly encouraged prior to attending a Training School. Athletes that are already certified coaches, local team leaders and other volunteers and regional staff are also welcome to attend! To register for a training and find answers to any questions you may have prior to attending, please click the Athletes as Coaches FAQ.

    While Athletes as Coaches webinars are 100% optional, any athlete interested in becoming a coach, as well as the head coach they would be working under, would need to fill out the Athlete as Coach Request Form and submit to their Regional Sport Director (for established regions) or Field Director (for non-established regions). Athlete as Coach will then be interviewed by regional staff to determine if they are appropriate to attend SOPA training school.

Step 2: Becoming a Certified Coach – within a year of working with a program a volunteer coach should consider becoming certified in one of two ways:

  • New Coach (skills) – Work with your programs Training Coordinator to schedule for an upcoming training school. A Training School includes rules updates, organizing an eight week training plan, and best practices in coaching Special Olympics Athletes. Sport Skills Program materials are provided to each participant.
    • Please note: All new coaches trainings are in-person.
    • For a complete list of upcoming training schools please click here.
  • Practicum Hours – After completing your in-person training you will need to participate in 10 hours of practicum (working with the athletes). Directions on submitting your 10 hours of practicum:
  • New Coaches with Sport Experience – If you are a new coach with sport experience you are encouraged to complete a Sports Training Application and submit it for approval.  Track 2 – Experienced Coach Application
    Once approved by the SOPA Training department you will be directed to take the basic course – Coaching Special Olympics Athletes and complete 10 hours of practicum. Coaching Special Olympics Athletes is an overview of four components: athlete, coach, training and competition.

Step 3: Continuing Education this training is for certified coaches. Coaches must receive continuing education training every 3 years to maintain their certification. There are two types of continuing education:

    • Sport Specific – The coach takes a course or clinic that focuses on one sport.   Ex. Equestrian Clinic on Showmanship at Summer Games.
      • A sport specific training updates the sport focused on in the course or clinic. In the example the coaches’ Equestrian certification will be updated for 3 years.
    • Non-Sport Specific – The coach takes an on-line training or clinic that provides information to a coach for many sports. Example: NFHS - Creating a Safe and Respectful Environment.
      • Non-Sport Specific course will update all sports that a coach is currently certified in. If the coach is certified in Alpine Skiing and Aquatics – both of these course will be updated using the non-sport specific continuing education course taken.
  • Once certified in a sport a coach will not take a skills course in that sport again unless they do not take their continuing educations courses/clinics.
  • For a complete list of courses which will meet the Continuing Education requirement of the SOPA Coach Education Program, please click here.