Special Olympics athletes are the true leaders of the movement.
Special Olympics Missouri offers 21 sports for individuals to practice and compete in, each of which are grouped in competition divisions according to ability level, age and gender.
Why Become a Special Olympics Athlete?
The physical, emotional and social benefits of participation in Special Olympics are experienced both on the playing field and at home.
- Physical exercise positively impacts health, mood and anxiety.
- Emphasis on sports training helps athletes maintain a healthy weight.
- Athletes participate in activities that enhance their self-esteem and help them see that they can achieve goals they set for themselves.
- Athletes have many opportunities to make new friends and socialize in an environment that is accepting and encouraging.
- Travel opportunities allow athletes to gain experiences and skills that will positively impact all areas of their lives.
Who is Eligible?
To participate in Special Olympics, a person must be at least eight years old. Children at the age of three may begin a Young Athletes training program, but are not able to compete until the age of eight. A person must also be identified by an agency or professional as having one of the following:
- Intellectual disability
- Closely related development disability, which means having functional limitations in both general learning and in adaptive skills such as recreation, work, independent living, self-direction, or self-care.
To ensure the safety of our athletes and volunteers, the Special Olympics Missouri Board of Directors adopted on April 28, 2007, the “Athlete and Volunteer Policy and Missouri’s Registration of Sex Offenders.”
For more information on eligibility click here.
How Do I Get Started?
Just a few simple steps before you can step on to the practice field.
1. Find your Area Director.
2. Download and complete physical and release forms, or request them from your Area Director. Every athlete is required to have a current physical and release form to practice & compete. Physicals are good for approximately 3 years - read more on our physical policy here.
3. Contact your local coach (your Area Director will tell you who this is). If there is not a local coach in your area, your friend or family member may become a certified coach by attending the required training sessions.
What Other Opportunities Do Athletes Have?
Special Olympics athletes have the opportunity to be involved in several other programs.
Global Messengers help spread the message of Special Olympics. This program is just one aspect of the Athlete Leadership Programs that is designed to give athletes the voice they may not have had before competing in Special Olympics. They are trained to speak publicly, and share their story for the benefit of individuals with intellectual disabilities. For more information on becoming a Global Messenger or booking an athlete to speak at your next event, click here. Kristina O'Neal has seen first-hand the benefits of becoming a Special Olympics athlete and currently is serving as one of eight Sergent Shriver Global Messengers. She travels the world sharing the message of joy, dignity, and respect that Special Olympics stands for.
Healthy Athletes is a free health screening program offered at our state events and a few stand alone events or local competitions, as well. Read more about the life altering services we are able to offer for FREE!
Athletes who show leadership abilities will have the opportunity to become an assistant coach in lieu of competing in that sport. To become a coach, you will need to go through the Athlete Leadership Programs University. For more information on that, click here.
Special Olympics Unified Sports(R) is an inclusive program that combines individuals with intellectual disabilities (athletes) and individuals without intellectual disabilities (partners) on sports teams for training and competition. Athletes and partners compete alongside one another, each in a meaningful and integral role on the Unified Sports team. SOMO offers 21 Olympic-type sports divsioned by age and ability for its athletes and each and every sport has the capability of being structured for Unified Sports if someone is interested. For more information on how to get involved with Unified Sports, click here.
Unity Games are an opportunity for businesses, schools, organizations or community members to come together with Special Olympics athletes for exhibition competitions. Much like Unified Sports,individuals with intellectual disabilities (athletes) and individuals without intellectual disabilities (partners) are paired together on teams to compete. Unity Games will provide a memorable opportunity for the athletes and guests to spotlight the importance of inclusion, sportsmanship, and friendship to the rest of the world.