- About Us
- Programs and Events
- Get Involved
- Contact Us
When is Special Olympics?
Special Olympics Pennsylvania’s Philadelphia program (SOPA-Philly) provides year-round sports training and competition in Philadelphia. Special Olympics happens every day! We host hundreds of events, competitions, trainings, and fundraisers each year. For a complete listing of events, visit our events page.
In addition to competing locally in Philadelphia, SOPA-Philly athletes have the chance to compete at the regional, state, national and international levels. Every two years, the Special Olympics World Games are held, alternating between winter and summer events. These games are patterned after the traditional Olympic Games and follow many of the same customs, rules, and regulations.
Is Special Olympics for all children and adults with disabilities? Who do you serve?
Special Olympics provides training and athletic competition for people ages 8 and above with intellectual disabilities. It is a common misconception that Special Olympics only provides programming for children. In fact, we have many teenagers and adults in our programs, since many athletes stay with Special Olympics for life.
In addition, Special Olympics provides an introduction to sports program, Young Athletes, for individuals with intellectual disabilities between the ages of 2 and 7. Although they do not compete, these Young Athletes are learning the skills to become future athletes!
While some participants also have a physical disability, the primary criterion for inclusion in Special Olympics is an intellectual disability.
What is an intellectual disability?
According to the American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD), an individual is considered to have an intellectual disability based on the following three criteria:
Is a person with a physical disability eligible to participate in Special Olympics?
Yes, if the person also has an intellectual disability.
Are people with autism eligible for Special Olympics?
Special Olympics serves individuals with intellectual disabilities. Those with some of the autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are eligible for Special Olympics, while others are not. We rely on the assessment and advice of professionals (teachers, counselors, doctors) working with the individual to determine eligibility for Special Olympics. If you are interested in becoming involved but are not sure of your eligibility, please refer to the SOI General Rules Statement of Eligibility or e-mail us at Philly@SpecialOlympicsPA.org, for more information.
How old do you need to be to compete in Special Olympics?
You must be at least 8 years old to compete in Special Olympics competition.
How do I get involved?
To get started as a volunteer or sponsor/donor, visit the Get Involved section of our Web site. There you’ll find additional information on various opportunities – from coaching or serving as an event volunteer to joining a team or becoming a sponsor.
If you’re interested in becoming an athlete, visit our “Compete” section for information on how to enroll, the sports we offer and our training and competition schedules.
Is there a fee for athletes to participate?
There is no cost to any athlete to join Special Olympics or to compete in any of the competitions. The Philadelphia program covers the costs of training, uniforms, registration fees, and travel for all levels of competition. The Philadelphia program and the Special Olympics PA state office cover costs associated with regional and state championships.
What is the divisioning process?
Special Olympics involves athletes with intellectual disabilities from all ability levels. In order to assure fair competition, athletes are placed in “divisions” with other athletes of similar or equal ability. This allows all athletes a fair opportunity to compete with a chance to place first or win. The divisioning process consists of evaluating teams and individuals s they play, or by organizing athletes based on entry scores.
What sports do you offer?
The Special Olympics PA – Philadelphia program offers 11 Olympic-type individual and team sports that provide meaningful training and competition opportunities for persons with intellectual disabilities at all skill levels. Check out our Sports and Seasons page for more info.
What is a Global Messenger? What is Athlete Leadership?
The Global Messenger program offers public speaking and presentation skills training to Special Olympics athletes, who in turn help spread the message and vision of Special Olympics.
The Global Messenger program is part of our Athlete Leadership Programs (ALPs), which allow athletes the chance to explore opportunities for Special Olympics participation in roles previously considered “non-traditional.” Such participation might come in the form of serving on the Board of Directors or local organizing committee, or an athlete might serve as a spokesperson, team captain, coach or official.
For more information on the Global Messenger program, or to invite a Special Olympics Global Messenger to speak to your school, civic group, church, business or anywhere else, please contact Kristin Craven at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Is Special Olympics part of the Olympics?
Special Olympics and the International Olympic Committee are two separate organizations. A protocol agreement has been signed between the groups. Special Olympics is the only organization officially authorized by the International Olympic Committee to use the word “Olympics” in its proper name. Many Special Olympics national programs have excellent working relationships with their respective National Olympics Committees.
What’s the difference between the Special Olympics and the Paralympics?
Special Olympics involves athletes from all ability levels who have intellectual disabilities; some may also have physical disabilities. Paralympics involves athletes with physical disabilities who compete only at the elite sports level. The International Olympic Committee recognizes both Special Olympics and the Paralympics.