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Goal of Special Olympics

The ultimate goal of Special Olympics is to help persons with intellectual disabilities participate as productive and respected members of society by offering them a fair opportunity to develop and demonstrate their skills and talents through sports training and competition, and by increasing the public's awareness of their needs and capabilities.

Athlete Leadership Value Statement

Special Olympics empowers athletes to become contributing and respected members of society. We support athlete leaders both on and off the playing field.

Purpose of Athlete Leadership 

The goal of Athlete Leadership is to empower athletes to develop leadership skills and utilize their voices and abilities to assume meaningful leadership roles, influence change within the Special Olympics movement, and create inclusive communities around the world.  Check out our Athlete Leadership One Page Snapshot.

View the Athlete Leadership YouTube Channel

Check out our Newsletter Issues of Special Olympics Athlete Review (SOAR):

Definition of Athlete Leadership

Through organized training and practical experiences, Athlete Leadership prepare athletes for meaningful positions of influence and leadership throughout the Special Olympics organization, both on and off the playing field.

Special Olympics PA VisionSOPA Vision Image

  • To strive to be an athlete-led and athlete-centric organization
  • To enable athletes, families, volunteers and the community at large to see athletes in leadership roles EVERYWHERE throughout Special Olympics programs
  • To change the perception of our athlete leaders
  • To equip athletes with the skills and abilities to lead our organization and others

Athletes with the proper training and coaching can lead us into the future.   Athlete Leaders within all levels of our program have strong voices, a desire to get involved, and a better understanding of what their needs are and where we should be heading as an organization.

Athlete Leadership Opportunities in Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA) Include: 

Athlete Leadership University - Training offered to Athlete Leaders three times a year to further their knowledge base and provide certification in the below.  Our next training will be offered on November 19th and 20th. 

1.  Communications - Global Messengers (trained as public speakers for Special Olympics)

2.  Governance - Athlete Representatives (trained as spokespersons for Special Olympics)

3.  Health – Health and Fitness Coordinators (trained to incorporate better health and fitness habits into their local program).

4.  Sports – Coaches (trained to help athletes that currently are, or want to become certified coaches, make the transition from a competitor to a coach).

Athlete Input Councils - An open forum for Athletes to share their input on key topics, games and events.

Athletes Congress - Hosted every 2 years, is a forum for Athlete Representatives to present recommendations to the SOPA Board of Directors for organizational change. Athlete Congress attendees must be trained Athlete Representatives -- one participant per county. The 2016 Congress Chair is Ernie Roundtree from Monroe County.

Athlete Leadership Teams - Teams of athletes serving as part of a local program management team, providing direct athlete input.

Athletes on SOPA Board of Directors - Positions are currently held by Melissa Woerner from Bucks County and Johanna Schoeneck from Lycoming County.

Other Key Roles Athletes Can Hold:

  • Athletes as Coaches
  • Athletes as Officials
  • Athletes as ALPs University Instructors
  • Athletes as ALPs University Mentors
  • Athletes as Special Olympics Employees
  • Athletes as Volunteers
  • Athletes as Survey Conductors
  • Athletes on Games Organizing Committees
  • Athletes on Local Program Management Teams
  • Athletes on Regional Input Council
  • Athletes attending Athlete Congress
  • Athletes attending Leadership Conference
  • Athletes attending Athlete Input Councils
  • Athletes as Health and Fitness Coordinators

  • Athletes as Healthy Athlete Initiative Assistants

Key Athlete Roles Image

For more information and details on upcoming programs, please contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Athlete Leadership Coordinator


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