To be eligible to participate in Special Olympics, an athlete must be at least eight years old and:
- have been identified by an agency or professional as having an intellectual disability;
- have a cognitive delay (learn slower than their peers) as determined by standardized measures;
- have significant learning or vocational problems due to cognitive delays which require or have required specially-designed instruction.
Athlete Training is an integral part of the Special Olympics program! One of the founding principles of the Special Olympics movement states that “People with intellectual disabilities can, with proper instruction and encouragement, enjoy, learn and benefit from participation in individual and team sports. Consistent training under the guidance of qualified coaches, with emphasis on physical conditioning, is essential to the development of sports skills.
Every Special Olympics athlete should be a part of a local training program that practices no less that 6-8 weeks within the respective sport season. It is proven at every Special Olympics Tournament, Event or Competition that the athletes who trained and who are prepared are those who perform to the best of their ability. Training is also important as it not only prepares athletes for competition BUT allows them the opportunity to socialize and be with friends.