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Development Models are Guiding Growth for Coaches and Athletes

In South Africa, a league of Special Olympics floor hockey players shows the power of good coaching to motivate training and to result in high achievement and maximum joy.

Our coaches are the driving force that makes Special Olympics thrive. Through excellent coaching, we unlock success for all our athletes worldwide whether their goal is fitness, fun, or top performance. Special Olympics has developed guidelines for developing our coaches and our athletes to reach their goals.

Development Model Resources

Get  athlete development model and coach development model resources, such as brochures in several languages, educational videos, and printable materials. These resources will help in promoting the development models and improving the overall excellence of our athletes and coaches.

Building a Stronger Coaching Foundation

With so many ways for coaches and athletes to build skills, grow in experience and find satisfaction in sport, Special Olympics feels it is important to have clear plans for both. Our coaches and our athletes with intellectual disabilities come from a variety of backgrounds, have a wide range of skills and experience, and compete with varying levels of ability.

Special Olympics has established separate but related development models for our coaches and athletes. Both are described in detail below.


300 x 20 Athlete Development Model picture

World Games competition is a goal many athletes aspire to, but it is only one of many ways to take part in Special Olympics sports. Download overview of the athlete development model (PDF)  and watch the athlete development model intro video.

Athlete Development Model

The Special Olympics Athlete Development Model (ADM) is a support plan designed to empower each of our athletes. The model promotes motor and skill development as well as health and fitness, while preparing athletes for competition at all levels.

The ADM is based on a progression from sport fundamentals to learning to train to training to compete. The ADM recognizes that not all athletes will move through the stages at the same pace and allows athletes to train at a level that works for them.

View:  Athlete Development Model resources


300 x 200 Powerlifting Coach

Hady Rahemy of Iran during competition at the 2014 Special Olympics Middle East North Africa Regional Games in Cairo, Egypt. His coach, Ghobad Bagheri, offers encouragement behind him. Watch an overview video on the Coach Development Model.

Coach Development Model

The Coach Development Model (CDM) provides a framework for Special Olympics Programs to certify coaches and recognizes specific coach qualifications. Following the CDM, Programs recruit and train coaches to fit into the Athlete Development Model. Coaches trained under the CDM support a lifelong sports experience for our Special Olympics athletes along their different sports development paths.

The Coach Development Model also offers guidance and new ideas on how best to work with local sports governing bodies to train and certify coaches. The CDM delivers optimum sports experiences to athletes at all levels and trains coaches to provide excellent instruction, advice, and motivation. 

View:  Coach Development Model resources

Watch a video that shows a day in the life of a Unified Sports football coach.