Become an Athlete

Image 73At Special Olympics, we believe that sports can teach us all important lessons.

When we train and strive for a goal, it teaches us to dream. When we struggle, it teaches us determination. When we win, we find joy. And if we lose, we find the strength to try again.

Our sports events bring together a large and inclusive community of athletes, supporters and families, coaches, volunteers, and many others. The athletes are at the center of it all. They become the heroes — to the shared joy of themselves, their families, and their communities.

Special Olympics competitions help us all rediscover the purity of sports — and real athletic pursuits — based on true Olympic ideals.


Participation in Special Olympics training and competitive events is open to all people with an intellectual disability, regardless of ability level.

Athletes age 8 and older may participate in Special Olympics training programs and competitions but may start training on a team at the age of 7. Athletes can continue to compete for the rest of their lives. If you have an athlete who is between the ages of 2 and 7-years old, please check out our Young Athletes Program so they can build the skills to become a future athlete! To see the sports we offer, please check out our Community-Based Program.

If you or someone you know would like more information about becoming an athlete or Unified partner, please complete our Participant Interest Form.  Once your form is submitted you will receive a follow-up email from Michelle Cordell, SOPA Philadelphia’s Sports Director.

To be eligible to participate in Special Olympics, athletes must have an intellectual disability; a cognitive delay, or a developmental disability, that is, functional limitations in both general learning and adaptive skills. If you are unsure if you or the athlete you are signing up are eligible, take a look at our Statement of Eligibility (PDF). People without intellectual disabilities can take part in Unified Sports teams that bring people with and without intellectual disabilities together to train and compete on the same teams.