Special Olympics Texas provides sports training and competition for more than 58,000 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.
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.
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 email@example.com.
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 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:
Unified Champion Schools is for students, teachers, and educators who believe that:
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/UnifiedChampionsTX.
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:
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 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.
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.
There are several programs that fall under this initiative:
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.
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 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. Athlete leadership committee made up of athletes serving on the President Advisory Council or Board of Directors as an athlete representative.
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 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.
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.
For more information about any of the Athlete Leadership Programs or trainings, please contact the Director of Program Training at firstname.lastname@example.org.