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February 28, 2017 | SOI General: Headquarters

Divisioning: Questions Asked and Answered

By Will Schermerhorn

We've gotten several good questions about divisioning recently. The questions highlight several important parts of the divisioning process.

Jane asked: Does Special Olympics use classification systems the way that the Paralympics uses classification systems so the higher level athletes play the higher level competitors?

Special Olympics uses the divisioning process to give athletes of all abilities the chance for exciting competition. Athletes and teams are matched by ability, age and gender. Divisioning makes Special Olympics competitions fair, empowering and exciting.

Divisioning is outlined in Section 10 of Special Olympics Sports Article 1. There's a new one-page guide to divisioning that was recently published. You can find lots of information about divisioning on this page on our SpecialOlympics.org website.

There are several factors that go in to the divisioning process. First, competition organizers look at records of previous performances to start to group athletes by ability. Organizers assess teams in a similar way using ratings or skills assessments. Organizers group athletes and teams into divisions according to age, gender and ability.

Jane asked: How are student with autism divisioned?

Athletes are divisioned according to ability, age and gender. An athlete's diagnosis is not a divisioning factor by itself.

Terry asked: What age ranges should I use in divisioning?

Sports Article 1 says, "Divide male and female athletes into the following age groups: ages 8-11; 12-15; 16-21; 22-29; and ages 30 years and over." There is a bit more to it, so check Sports Article 1 to be sure.

Gayle asked: Can an advance ability team compete in a lower ability tournament?

Divisioning helps ensure teams are matched by ability so that competition is fair and exciting. Check out section 10.4 and 10.5 in Sports Article 1 to see how teams are divisioned.

About Will Schermerhorn: I am the senior director of web products for Special Olympics.
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