Section J:
Outreach Program

Special Olympics Texas provides sports training and competition for more than 53,000 athletes. However, it is estimated there are more than 600,000 Texans who are eligible to participate in Special Olympics programs. We have much work to do to provide services for individuals who qualify and are interested in participating in Special Olympics. We must all work to ensure that we reach out to those individuals whose lives can be improved through participation in this organization.

Special Olympics Texas needs the efforts of staff, coaches, volunteers and board members to identify, enroll and retain athletes in the Special Olympics family. These efforts are ongoing and involve efforts at the local, area and state levels.

How You Can Help

  • Participate in your area outreach committee. These committees work to identify where potential athletes can be contacted, access local resources and make contacts with schools, agencies, and organizations. The committees develop a recruitment plan to grow participation and retain athletes involved in Special Olympics.
  • Invite your friends to volunteer or coach for Special Olympics Texas. Without coaches and volunteers, we cannot form new teams and opportunities for athletes.
  • Help teams find facilities and resources in your community. Schools, churches, universities, local parks and recreation organizations and YMCA/YWCAs can be great friends to Special Olympics.
  • Encourage athletes to invite their friends to get involved in the organization.
  • Talk to families and encourage their participation. If families are involved and support their athletes, they are more likely to stay involved.
  • Invite new families to come and experience Special Olympics. Build relationships with them and show them the benefits of involvement.
  • Encourage local schools to establish new Special Olympics teams, or to start a Unified Sports® team, Unified Clubs, or sports partnership.
  • Encourage athlete retention by offering age-appropriate sport choices and offering opportunities for athletes to take on new roles through Athlete Leadership Programs (ALPs).
  • Share the Get Into It™ program with schools. Get Into It™ is a free K-12 curriculum targeting general education students to promote an understanding of intellectual disabilities and Special Olympics. Visit getintoit.specialolympics.org for more information.
  • Use the outreach resources available, including the How to Get Started Handbook available online under Get Involved on the SOTX website.
  • Engage Texas schools in Unified Champion Schools (UCS) - Meet in the Middle to foster an inclusive school environment and develop understanding between students with intellectual disabilities and typically developing students.
  • State Outreach Support Services Committee

When Serving in an Outreach Role

  • Emphasize that Special Olympics is not a once-a-year track meet. Share with the public that Special Olympics Texas offers year-round sports training in different sports. Mention the fact that athletes are required to train for a minimum of eight weeks in each sport, prior to competing.
  • Stress that Special Olympics Texas is for people with intellectual disabilities and closely related developmental disabilities. SOTX includes a continuum of programs that provide for athletes of all ability levels:
    • Athletes In Training (AIT)
    • Young Athletes Program (YAP)
    • Motor Activities Training Program (MATP)
    • Individual Sports Skills Competitions
    • Team and Individual Sports Competitions
    • Unified Programs
  • Inform people that Special Olympics Texas offers inclusive programming for athletes to interact with peers who do not have disabilities.
  • Unified Programs allows Special Olympics athletes to train and compete with teammates without disabilities. These teams compete against other Unified teams and often play in community leagues.
  • Partners Clubs and Sports Partnerships are programs that create opportunities for Special Olympics athletes to form friendships and get support from their peers in an atmosphere that fosters mutual respect and fun.
  • Share the benefits of participation in Special Olympics. Athletes develop physical fitness, reinforce fine and gross motor skills, learn social skills through cooperation with teammates, have opportunities for social interaction and friendships, and develop many skills that assist them in their vocational development.
  • Go to the Adult Transition Plan of the SOTX website.
  • Refer older adults leaving school programs to seek continued participation in Special Olympics Texas programs through visiting the SOTX website, requesting information at the "exit" ARD about the Texas Education Agency's transition services and community resources page.

There are many resources available for sharing information about Special Olympics, including fact sheets and brochures on a variety of topics and information at www.sotx.org. For more information on resources available, contact your Area Director or the Director of Outreach and Families at dir_familyoutr.chp@sotx.org or 800.876.5646, ext. 2958.

Young Athletes™

The Special Olympics Young Athletes™ (YA) is an innovative sports play program for children with intellectual disabilities designed to introduce them to the world of sports prior to Special Olympics eligibility at age eight. Involvement in this program can begin as early as age 2 and continue through age 7. The program addresses two levels of play. First, the activities focus on developing fundamental motor tracking and eye-hand coordination play through a variety of developmental activities. Second, it concentrates on applying these physical skills through a sports skills activity program to establish a foundation for sports participation. This foundation will be essential for these Young Athletes as they enter a lifetime of sports with Special Olympics.

The program is also a means to encourage family involvement and participation with their child. It is a great tool for parents of young children to network with one another to share in the struggles and triumphs of having a child with a disability. It also offers the opportunity for parents to share in the success of their future athlete.

Athletes who are eligible to participate in the Young Athletes may not continue to be eligible for Special Olympics competition once they have reached their potential developmental level. If this is the case, the athlete will be able to hold other roles within Special Olympics such as Unified partner or volunteer.

If you would like more information or would like to start a Young Athletes in your area, contact your Area Director or the Director of Outreach and Families at 800.876.5646, ext. 2958 or dir_familyoutr.chp@sotx.org.

All certified YAP facilitators must be a registered SOTX volunteer [must have a current Class A Volunteer Application on file, must have attended General Orientation and Protective Behaviors (in person or online) and must have passed the criminal background check].

A Young Athletes Participation Form will be required for Young Athletes.

A letter to send to parents should also accompany the Participation Form.

Unified Champion Schools

Unified Champion Schools is a national, federal grant-funded project designed to empower students with and without intellectual disabilities to work together as agents of change - fostering respect, dignity, and advocacy for people with intellectual disabilities by utilizing the programs and initiatives of Special Olympics. Unified Champion Schools has three components:

  • Youth Leadership
  • Unified Programs
  • Whole School Involvement

Unified Champion Schools is for students, teachers, and educators who believe that:

  • There should be more opportunities for young people of all ages and ability levels in schools across the country to make friends and work together for change.
  • Students with intellectual disabilities should become an integral part of and be perceived as assets in their schools and communities.
  • Students without intellectual disabilities can and should increase their knowledge, skills, and comfort in forming social relationships with students with intellectual disabilities and come together to address societal issues.
  • Policy makers and leaders in education should develop policies and support quality practices that encourage positive school climates with safe and nurturing learning environments for all students.

Special Olympics Texas invites schools around the state to participate Unified Champion Schools. Unified Champion Schools is active in more than 100 schools throughout Texas. Unified Champion Schools includes all ages and grade levels, pre-K through 12, and 18 plus. Thousands of Texas students have felt the positive impact of involvement in the program's inclusive leadership activities and Service-Learning projects, including the Spread the Word/Erase the R-word campaign and Unified Sports. For more information, follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SOTXMiM and Twitter at www.twitter.com/SOTXMiM .

Sports Partnerships

The Special Olympics Sports Partnerships concept makes athletes with intellectual disabilities and Special Olympics teams part of the existing sports teams and leagues for athletes without disabilities. All athletes train together but compete against athletes of comparable age and ability.

Special Olympics Sports Partnerships are a way to offer individuals with intellectual disabilities a variety of sports training and competition opportunities at very little cost.

Training and competition are supervised either by the team’s head coach in a particular sport or an assistant coach specifically assigned to coach the Special Olympics teams. The number of coaches needed and stipends for those coaches should follow normal agency policies and procedures.

Athletes without disabilities from existing sports teams should serve as peer coaches, scrimmage teammates and supporters during competition.

Sports Partnerships activities are unique and important because they:

  • Enhance self-esteem.
  • Bring together athletes with and without intellectual disabilities in a setting where all athletes are challenged to improve their skills, and to develop friendships and an understanding of each other’s capabilities through a spirit of equality and team unity.
  • Provide a valuable sports opportunity to individuals with intellectual disabilities who are not presently involved with Special Olympics, especially those with mild intellectual disabilities and those in communities where there are not enough Special Olympics athletes to conduct team sports.
  • Prepare Special Olympics athletes with higher-level skills for participation in school or community sports.

Not every individual with intellectual disabilities is ready to participate in the Special Olympics Sports Partnerships programs. Participation in team sports requires an understanding of teamwork, team strategy and rules, and the requisite skills to participate in that sport. Appropriate sport selection is important. For this reason, Special Olympics offers a variety of choices other than Sports Partnerships, all of which teach functional sport skills and offer meaningful competition experiences.

Unified Programs

Unified Programs integrate athletes with and without intellectual disabilities in training and competition programs as well as social activities. Please visit Unified Sports (Section K) for more information.

Athlete Leadership Programs

The Athlete Leadership Programs (ALPs) are a series of programs developed by Special Olympics, Inc. to ensure Special Olympics athletes are provided opportunities to have meaningful participation in all aspects of the movement. Special Olympics Texas supports these initiatives and provides training and/or support for athletes who want to expand their participation in Special Olympics on or off the field of competition. In addition, the ALPs strive to create a “culture of welcome” for athletes who seek expanded participation in the Special Olympics movement.

The ALPs Have Three Major Goals:

  • To provide athletes a choice in how and in what role they want to participate in the movement.
  • To encourage athletes to take meaningful roles of influence and leadership in the organization to help determine policy and set direction.
  • To provide training opportunities and support systems for athletes, as well as for the volunteers, staff, family members, committee or board members working with athletes to ensure that they are successful in their leadership roles.

There are several programs that fall under this initiative:

Sargent Shriver Global Messenger Program

This program provides training in public speaking and presentation for athletes interested in representing Special Olympics and Special Olympics athletes in formal or support settings. Global Messengers are given opportunities to speak to audiences for a variety of purposes.

Athlete Input Councils

The Athlete Input Councils provide a forum for athletes to discuss programming and policy dialogue via instruction and practice in forming and articulating opinions, group discussions and techniques for gathering their input. Equally important is the enhancement of awareness and listening skills of volunteers, staff and family members who interact with athletes. Athletes can participate at the local or state input councils.

Athletes as Board and Committee Members

Athletes are provided training, mentorship and support to serve in leadership roles on the Special Olympics Texas Board of Directors, on chapter committees and on area level committees. In 2002, the Special Olympics Board of Directors approved a resolution to ensure the inclusion of athletes on committees at all levels of Special Olympics Texas where appropriate.

Athletes as Coaches

This program provides athletes with training and assessment to serve as certified Special Olympics coaches in a Special Olympics sanctioned sport. Upon certification, athletes will serve in appropriate coaching roles. Athletes may perform all the functions of a coach on the playing field under the supervision of head coach or head of delegation. Athletes are not to be left in charge as the primary person responsible for the health, safety and welfare of other athletes; therefore, they cannot serve as the head coach, head of delegation or be counted in the chaperone to athlete ratio on the Delegation Entry Form.

Athletes as Officials

Athletes may fulfill the role of an official for Special Olympics Texas. The program provides training and mentorship opportunities for athletes to develop skills and prepare for official certification by the National Governing Bodies.

Athletes as Volunteers

Special Olympics Texas athletes are welcomed and encouraged to volunteer in various roles within the organization, dependent on the individual’s interest and abilities. All athletes must meet volunteer eligibility requirements, including age, training, paperwork, etc. The only restriction for an athlete to volunteer is that at no time can the athlete volunteer be put or left in charge of the safety and welfare of other athletes or used in the ratio count for teams. As a result, the roles of head of delegation, head coach, and chaperone are not available for athlete volunteers.

Special Olympics ALPs Certification Program

Special Olympics, Inc. has developed a certification program to encourage continuing education opportunities for the athletes involved in ALPs. This certification program offers a series of workshops aimed at developing leadership skills, public speaking skills and technology skills in our Special Olympics athletes. Athletes have an opportunity to attend trainings to meet requirements for certification. Below is a list of some of the coursework available:

  • Beginner Global Messenger Training
  • Advanced Global Messenger II Training
  • Speakers Bureau
  • Athletes in the Media
  • Governance Training
  • Leadership 101
  • Volunteer Readiness
  • PowerPoint for Athletes
  • Board Training
  • Athletes as Coaches and Officials

For more information about any of the Athlete Leadership Programs or trainings, please contact the Director of Program Training at dir_progtrg.chp@sotx.org.