Become a Coach
Special Olympics athletes are capable and enjoy sharing life experiences – listening to music, playing video games, watching the latest movies and, yes, having fun – as well as working together toward athletic excellence. Special Olympics’ hope is that individuals take the time to reach out to people with intellectual disabilities and say, to quote Special Olympics athlete Troy Daniels, “Come sit by me” – a simple gesture that reflects a world of acceptance and mutual respect.
Across Pennsylvania, more than 4,000 coaches reflect that world of acceptance and respect by providing Special Olympics athletes with instruction, guidance, support, and encouragement to achieve new goals. They teach sports fundamentals, techniques and strategy, but they also reinforce sportsmanship, teamwork, team spirit, self-confidence. Most coaches have full-time jobs, but they always find the time for coaching in addition to performing other duties such as obtaining equipment and transporting athletes to competitions.
Coaches not only provide skills training for athletes, but they also serve as role models and character builders. They give Special Olympics athletes the most immediate awareness of their own worth, ability, courage, and capacity to grow and improve.
Coaches often begin as volunteers at an event. If you are interested in becoming a certified coach, please complete the online registration form. Although no specific sport skill is required to be eligible to coach, many coaches already have expertise in the sport they select.
Special Olympics coaches often find that the personal rewards they receive sometimes outweigh the benefits they offer the athletes they train. Special Olympics coaches have a unique opportunity to work with athletes in competitive situations to assist in their training for life.
To become a certified Special Olympics Pennsylvania coach, an individual must participate in a training course. For a complete overview of the Special Olympics Pennsylvania Coach Education Program click here. For more information click here Training Schools.
Steps to Becoming a SOPA Certified Sports Coach:
- Complete a Special Olympics Pennsylvania Volunteer Registration Form and submit, along with information needed to complete a criminal records check to the appropriate member of your county program management team. Individuals age 17 or younger and those not residents of Pennsylvania must also complete a volunteer disclosure statement.
- Ask the county to create a record for you in the SOPA online database.
- Complete the Special Olympics Pennsylvania General Orientation. After reviewing the material, click on the link Online Training Test, click Finish after providing us your information and answering all the questions on the General Orientation Quiz.
- Complete the Special Olympics Protective Behaviors Training. - PLEASE NOTE: Coaches are required to complete the Protective Behaviors Training every three years in order to maintain their certification. This training can be used to satisfy the continuing education requirement once every nine years, but must still be completed every three years in addition to or as part of the continuing education requirement.
- Attend an approved training, either a Special Olympics Sports Specific Coach Training or Coaching Special Olympics Athletes course based on previous experience in the sport as outlined in the two tracks below. - Track One: Individuals with no prior coaching or playing background in the sport in which they want to become certified. Attend an approved Special Olympics Sports Specific Coach Training course. View Training Schools for currently approved and offered courses. - Track Two: Individuals with extensive prior coaching or playing background in the sport in which they want to become certified. Submit a Sport History Application outlining your experience in the sport. If approved, take an approved Coaching Special Olympics Athletes Course.
- Complete a 10 hour practicum coaching athletes in the sport in which you are applying for certification at an approved local training site. - Up to 3 hours from a local or sectional competition can be applied to the 10 hour practicum requirement. - Up to 5 hours training athletes during the current sports season, but prior to attending the training school, may be counted toward the 10 hour practicum requirement as long as the training was conducted in conjunction with a certified head coach.
- Complete and submit the Special Olympics Sports Training Application - Handed out at sports specific coach trainings and Coaching Special Olympics courses. - Signature of Certified Head Coach or Local Program Training Coordinator required before submission.
- Head Coaches and coaches accompanying athletes during an overnight stay must be at least 18 years of age. Coaches for single-day competitions must be at least 16 years of age.
- Once SOPA staff confirms that all requirements have been met, the individuals SOPA database record will be updated to reflect the certification attained. If all requirements have not been met, the individual will be contacted with instructions on how to complete the steps remaining in order to receive certification.
- Individuals have 1 year from the date of their attendance at a training to complete the steps above and earn their certification. If a coach needs to become certified for a program to have certified coaches for state-level competitions, they must complete all of the above requirements prior to the start of the state-level competition.
- Certified Coaches must take approved continuing education every three years in order to maintain their Special Olympics Sports Certification. A listing of approved continuing education courses can be found under Training Schools. - Coaches are not required to complete a 10 hour practicum for their continuing education course. - Coaches are required to submit a signed Sports Training Application for approval of their continuing education.
THE SPECIAL OLYMPICS COACHING PHILOSOPHY:
ATHLETES FIRST, WINNING SECOND
A Coach is an individual who assumes responsibility for athletes, actively trains athletes and coaches them in competitions.
SOPA Policy - In order to bring athletes to sectional or state-level competitions, a local program must have at least one Level 2 certified coach (as defined by the SOPA Coach Education Program ) for each team competing in team sports* and one Level 2 certified coach for each individual sport. Coaches must be Level 2 certified in the sport in which they are bringing athletes to that competition. An individual may count as a certified coach for only one sport per competition and the Head of Delegation cannot serve as a certified coach for purposes of meeting this requirement. (Team sports are soccer, softball, floor hockey, volleyball and basketball.) * Requirement for one Level 2 certified coach per team competing in team sports will be enforced starting with the 2012 Fall Festival (soccer and volleyball).