Special Olympics athletes are the true leaders of the movement.

Special Olympics Missouri offers 16 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 Program Staff.

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 Program Staff 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.

Athlete Leadership

This program is designed to train people with intellectual disabilities on leadership, life skills and independence. Classes include public speaking, governance, internet/email, photography, videography, personal finances, job skills, teamwork/problem solving, health and much more. For many, this is the first time that they are given real choice and an opportunity to become leaders on their teams and in their communities. For more information on this program, click here. 

Healthy Athletes

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.


unified sportsUnified Sports

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

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.



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Athlete's Oath

"Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."  


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