Article 3: Sports Training and Competition
June 01, 2012
Article 3 covers the objectives of Special Olympics training and competition, which promote Special Olympics as an athlete-centered Movement. The objectives include developing the physical, social, psychological, intellectual and spiritual qualities and capabilities of each athlete and promoting the spirit of sportsmanship and love of participation in sports for its own sake regardless of levels of ability or the results of a particular competition.
Emphasis is placed on encouraging athletes to reach their highest level of athletic achievement, increasing public awareness of the needs and capabilities of persons with intellectual disabilities, increasing public support for Special Olympics and encouraging parental, family and community support.
The Article sets out how Special Olympics aims to promote and reflect the values, standards and traditions embodied in the ancient and modern Olympics movement in all Special Olympics competitions, while broadening and enriching these traditions. It also outlines a prohibition on charging fees as a condition for admission to or participation in any Special Olympics event, activity or competition.
The general requirements for sports training and competition are covered in this Article, including qualifying, competition advancement and ‘divisioning’, which is the way each Special Olympics competition is structured so that every athlete/team in the division has a reasonable chance to excel during competition. The three general classes of Special Olympics sports are outlined: official sports, which divide into official summer and winter sports, recognized sports, which are authorized for inclusion in Special Olympics sports training and competition programs, and locally popular sports as defined in the Sports Rules. The Rules related to invitational Games and Tournaments, Unified Sports, MATP and volunteers are also covered in this Article.
Founding Objectives of Special Olympics Sports Training and Competition
Special Olympics sports training and competition programs and events shall be planned and conducted with a view toward achieving the following objectives:
Promoting Special Olympics as an athlete-centered Movement, in which athletes are the central focus of each training or competition program or event, and in which athletes are provided meaningful opportunities to participate in additional activities that support Special Olympics programming;
Developing the physical, social, psychological, intellectual and spiritual qualities and capabilities of each athlete;
Promoting the spirit of sportsmanship and a love of participation in sports for its own sake, by stressing and celebrating the importance of, and the personal achievement associated with, each athlete's participation and personal effort in Special Olympics, regardless of that athlete's comparative level of ability or the results of a particular competition;
Encouraging athletes to reach their highest level of athletic achievement in a particular sport, by providing opportunities for them to do so and by helping their coaches and families provide them with increased support and encouragement;
Increasing public awareness of the needs and capabilities of persons with intellectual disabilities, and increasing public support for Special Olympics, by encouraging participation in Special Olympics by parents, teachers, schools, civic organizations, corporations, parks and recreation departments, medical and mental health providers, institutions and independent living centers which offer care or support for persons with intellectual disabilities, and other civic, governmental, social or sports-oriented constituencies within the community at large; and
Promoting and reflecting the values, standards and traditions embodied in the ancient and modern Olympic movement in all Special Olympics competitions, while broadening and enriching these traditions to include and celebrate the physical and spiritual qualities of persons with intellectual disabilities so as to enhance their dignity and self-esteem.
Prohibition on Charging Fees
No Accredited Program or GOC may require Special Olympics athletes or their families to pay or promise to pay any type of admission, registration, training, participation, or competition fee, or any other fee or charge of any type as a condition for admission to any Special Olympics event or activity, or as a fee for the athletes' participation in any Special Olympics or competition (collectively, "Prohibited Fees"). The preceding sentence does not prohibit an Accredited Program from charging accreditation fees to its Sub-Programs to help defray the cost of administering those Sub-Programs in accordance with these General Rules, so long as the amount of any such accreditation fee is reasonable and is approved by SOI, and so long as the Sub-Program required to pay that fee does not charge or accept any Prohibited Fees from athletes or their families.
General Requirements for Special Olympics Sports Training and Competition
Special Olympics sports training and competition may be conducted only by or under the auspices and direct supervision of SOI, an Accredited Program, or a GOC. No Accredited Program may permit or engage any third party, other than sports clubs and federations, to conduct or organize any Games, Tournament or Special Olympics training event for or on behalf of that Accredited Program.
All Special Olympics sports training and competition activities and events shall be conducted in accordance with these General Rules, the SOI Sports Rules, and the other Uniform Standards. Each Accredited Program shall offer sports training and competition programs which meet the highest possible standards in facilities and equipment, athletic attire, training, coaching, officiating, administration, and related events for athletes and their families. Special Olympics sports training and competitions must be held in a manner which protects the participating athletes, provides fair and equitable conditions of competition, and promotes uniformity in testing athletic skills, so that no competitor obtains an unfair advantage over another.
Range of Programming Offered to Athletes
Each Accredited Program shall offer a variety of sports events and activities which are appropriate to the age and ability of each athlete, including one or more Official Sports. The scope of the sports training and competition programs offered by each Accredited Program shall be consistent with the SOI Sports Rules and should foster full participation by all eligible athletes. These programs shall include but not be limited to the traditional Special Olympics sports program, Special Olympics Unified Sports® and Motor Activities Training Programs (which are described in Sections 3.11 and 3.12, respectively).
Public Education and Promotion
Special Olympics sports training and competition events shall take place in public. Each Accredited Program and GOC shall use its best efforts to attract spectators to all such events, and to generate coverage by local news media, in order to increase public awareness of and support for the needs and capabilities of persons with intellectual disabilities.
Involvement of Volunteers and Families
Accredited Programs and GOCs should maximize the involvement of volunteers and family members of athletes in planning and conducting sports training activities and competition events. Volunteers and family members should also be encouraged by Accredited Programs and GOCs to participate actively in efforts to educate the public concerning the purposes and benefits of Special Olympics.
Medical and Safety Requirements - Generally
Accredited Programs and GOCs shall conduct all sports training and competition activities in a safe environment, taking all reasonable steps, including good risk management practices, to protect the health and safety of athletes, coaches, volunteers and spectators and other attendees at all Special Olympics events. Accredited Programs and GOCs shall also adhere to the general or sport-specific medical and safety requirements set forth in the SOI Sports Rules. In addition, Accredited Programs and GOCs must comply with the relevant sport federation rules.
Requirements Concerning Special Olympics Sports
Classification of Special Olympics Sports
The sports in which Special Olympics athletes are given the opportunity to train and compete are divided into three general classes, consisting of the Official Sports defined in Section 3.04(b), the Recognized Sports defined in Section 3.04(d), and locally popular sports as defined in the Sports Rules. SOI has the ultimate authority to determine how and when to classify sports as either Official Sports or Recognized Sports. SOI shall be responsible for communicating to Programs and submitting evidence for the current level of recognition of all sports.
Official Sports are sports which SOI has recognized as being part of the official program of Special Olympics sports training and competition. SOI's classifications of Official Sports are binding on all Accredited Programs. Official Sports include:
(1) "Official Summer Sports," which are presently classified by SOI as consisting of:
(2) "Official Winter Sports," which are presently classified by SOI as consisting of:
Short Track Speed Skating
(3) “Recognized Sports” which are presently classified by SOI as consisting of:
Changes in Classification of Official Sports
SOI may change or add to the sports classified as Official Sports under Section 3.04(b), using the procedures set forth in the SOI Sports Rules for classifying Official Sports and recertifying sports as Official or Recognized once every eight years following an application to the Sports Rules Advisory Committee and approval by the Committee.
"Recognized Sports" are sports which are not classified by SOI as Official Sports, but which SOI authorizes for inclusion in Special Olympics sports training and competition programs. SOI classifies various sports as "Recognized Sports" based on criteria and procedures set forth in the SOI Sports Rules.
Rules for Official Sports
SOI has the ultimate authority to determine what rules will govern the conduct of training and competition in a particular Official Sport. All such rules shall be published in the SOI Sports Rules and disseminated to all Accredited Programs.
Rules of Sports Federations
Accredited Programs and GOCs shall follow the rules for specific sports which are issued from time to time by the International Sports Federations, as provided in the Preamble.
Sports to be offered by Accredited Programs
Accredited Programs shall offer local training and competition opportunities to athletes from among the Official Sports and Recognized Sports. These competition opportunities should normally include opportunities to compete with teams or individuals other than those with whom the athlete usually trains.
"Prohibited Sports" means those sports which SOI has determined, in consultation with the Medical Advisory Committee, do not meet SOI's minimum health or safety standards or which would otherwise expose Special Olympics athletes to unreasonable risks to their health or safety. No Accredited Program may offer any training or competition activities in any sport which SOI has classified as a Prohibited Sport. SOI has presently classified boxing, fencing, shooting, karate, and other martial arts as Prohibited Sports. SOI may change or add to these classifications of Prohibited Sports using the procedures specified in the SOI Sports Rules.
Requirements Concerning Special Olympics Training
Each Accredited Program shall offer comprehensive and year-round sports training, conducted by qualified coaches in accordance with the SOI Sports Rules. Every Special Olympics athlete who competes in a Special Olympics sport at a Games or a Tournament must have been trained in that sport. Training may include physical conditioning and nutrition education. SOI shall establish written minimum training requirements for competitors in each Official Sport and Recognized Sport offered by that Program, in accordance with the SOI Sports Rules. Athletes who desire to compete in Regional Games, Multi-Program Games or World Games must be trained according to the minimum standards acceptable, for at least eight (8) consecutive weeks in the appropriate sport, and must have several opportunities to compete during that period. Accredited Programs should offer athletes who are preparing for competitions at other levels within Special Olympics, such as for Program Games, or Sub-Program Games (e.g. local, area, community), the same training and competition opportunities as are offered by that Accredited Program to athletes who participate in Regional, Multi-Program and/or World Games.
Requirements Concerning Special Olympics Competition
All Games and Tournaments held or sponsored by SOI, an Accredited Program or a GOC shall satisfy the following general requirements, except to the extent that an Accredited Program may be permitted to vary from one or more of these requirements by virtue of a waiver from SOI:
Opportunities to Participate
Accredited Programs shall offer training and competition opportunities for athletes of all levels of ability. Games and Tournaments however may be structured to only one level of competition. In team sports, each member of the team should be given frequent opportunities to participate in competition.
Opportunities to Excel
Games and Tournaments should offer every athlete an equal chance to excel during competition. Each competition division within a given event must be structured so that every athlete/team in the division has a reasonable chance to excel during competition, by placing athletes and teams in divisions or trial heats according to accurate records of their previous performance, and where relevant, by grouping athletes and teams by age and gender, as provided and required by the SOI Sports Rules.
Scope and Frequency of Accredited Program Games
Each Accredited Program shall hold Games periodically and frequently, and with the greatest respect to the scope of the competition opportunities offered as practical.
Quotas for World Games and Other SOI-Sanctioned Events
SOI has the sole authority to establish binding quotas governing the overall size and composition of the delegations of athletes, coaches and other persons to be sent by Accredited Programs to World Games and to any other Games or events sanctioned by SOI, as further provided in Section 3.08(d).
Advancement of Athletes during Competition
Accredited Programs shall comply with the criteria and procedures in the SOI Sports Rules in determining the circumstances under which Special Olympics athletes may advance from one level of competition within Special Olympics to the next-higher competition level, such as advancement from participation in Sub-Program Games to multi-Program Games, or from multi-Program Games to Regional Games or World Games. Accredited Programs shall implement the advancement criteria set out in the SOI Sports Rules in a manner which gives athletes of all ability levels an equal opportunity to advance to the next higher level of competition within Special Olympics.
Rules for Distribution of Awards
Awards shall be distributed during Games and Tournaments only in accordance with these General Rules and the SOI Sports Rules. At all Multi-Program Games, Regional Games, World Games and any other Games or events sanctioned by SOI, medals shall be presented to the first, second, and third-place winners in each event, and ribbons shall be presented to athletes who finish in fourth through eighth place. Athletes who are disqualified (for reasons other than unsportsmanlike conduct or violations of the divisioning requirements of the SOI Sports Rules) or who do not finish an event shall be presented with a participation ribbon.
All awards ceremonies conducted during Games and Tournaments shall have as their focus the dignity and accomplishments of the participating athletes, and shall be conducted in a solemn and colorful manner which resembles, as much as is reasonably practicable, the awards ceremonies conducted during Olympic competitions.
Conduct of World Games
SOI shall determine all matters concerning the organization and conduct of World Games. Unless otherwise determined by SOI, the following general policies shall govern the conduct of World Games:
World Games shall be held every two years, alternating between Summer Games and Winter Games, so that Summer Games and Winter Games shall each be held every four years, with World Summer Games starting as of 1975, and World Winter Games starting as of 1977.
SOI shall determine the location of each World Games, and shall select and contract with each GOC concerning the terms under which that GOC will have the right and the responsibility to organize, finance and conduct particular World Games. SOI shall select the site for each World Games in accordance with the procedures and criteria specified in the World/Regional Games Charter.
All World Games shall be conducted only with SOI's authorization, and in accordance with the SOI Sports Rules, the World/Regional Games Charter, and the other Uniform Standards.
Participating Programs; Quotas and Delegations
Accredited Programs have the right, as well as the obligation, to send a delegation of athletes and coaches to Regional and, where appropriate such as in the United States, to Multi-Program, and World Games. SOI shall have the sole authority to establish binding quotas governing the overall size and composition of the delegations of athletes, coaches and other persons to be sent by Accredited Programs to World Games. Once SOI determines these quotas, the affected Accredited Programs shall send delegations to the World Games which comply, as to size and composition, with the quotas established by SOI.
All Accredited Programs shall follow the athlete advancement criteria specified in the SOI Sports Rules in identifying the athletes who are eligible to represent their Accredited Programs at Games. Consistent with those advancement criteria (which are set forth in detail in the SOI Sports Rules), athletes desiring to represent their Accredited Programs in Regional or World Games must first compete in Sub-Program Games and/or Accredited Program Games held or sponsored within their Accredited Program in order to be eligible for Regional or World Games. Similarly, athletes from U.S. Programs who desire to participate in U.S. Multi-Program Games, Regional Games, or World Games must first have competed in Games held or sponsored by their respective Sub-Program and/or U.S. Program.
Conduct of SOI-Sanctioned Games
SOI shall determine all matters concerning the organization and conduct of Regional Games, Multi-Program Games (which are referred to, individually and collectively, using the generic term "Games" in this Section 3.09). Unless otherwise determined by SOI, the following general policies shall govern the conduct of such Games:
Such Games may be held in accordance with whatever schedule SOI determines is in the best interests of Special Olympics, except that no Regional Games, Multi-Program Games shall be held within the six (6) months before the starting date of any World Games, or within six (6) months after the official closing date of any World Games.
SOI shall determine the location of such Games. SOI shall also select and contract with any GOC which is to be authorized by SOI to organize, finance and conduct such Games, or with any Accredited Program which is to have the responsibility for hosting or taking primary responsibility in planning such Games. SOI shall select the site for such Games in accordance with the procedures and criteria specified in the World/Regional Games Charter.
All such Games shall be conducted only with SOI's authorization, and in accordance with the SOI Sports Rules, the World/Regional Games Charter, and the other Uniform Standards.
Participating Programs; Eligible Athletes
SOI shall determine which Accredited Programs are eligible to participate in particular Games, and shall also establish the eligibility requirements for the participating athletes other than those set forth in Article 2. SOI shall have the sole authority to establish binding quotas governing the overall size and composition of the delegations of athletes, coaches and other persons to be sent by Accredited Programs to such Games, as further provided in Section 3.08(d).
Invitational Games and Tournaments
Accredited Programs' Authority to Conduct
Accredited Programs may not conduct their Multi-Program Games as invitational games to which athletes from other Accredited Programs are invited to attend ("Invitational Games") without SOI's prior written authorization or in accordance with such written policies as SOI may adopt from time to time. If SOI authorizes a specific Accredited Program to hold its Games as Invitational Games, the requirements of this Section 3.10 shall apply to such Invitational Games, unless otherwise indicated by SOI in its written directives to the Accredited Program regarding its authority to hold such Invitational Games.
Sub-Programs are not eligible to host Invitational Games unless otherwise approved by SOI in a specific instance. Invitations to attend Invitational Games shall not be distributed to, or accepted by, any Sub-Program without SOI's prior written authorization.
Purpose of Invitational Games
Accredited Programs may be permitted to hold their Games periodically as Invitational Games in order to foster greater cooperation and exchange of information between Accredited Programs within a particular Region, and in order to give new or developing Accredited Programs the opportunity to learn and benefit from participation in the Games of a more developed Accredited Program, particularly until that new Accredited Program reaches a point where it can conduct its own Games. Notwithstanding the preceding sentence, the opportunity to participate in another Accredited Program's Invitational Games is not, and may not be viewed as, a substitute for the obligation of the guest Accredited Program to conduct its own Games.
Programs Which May Participate; Rules for
Extending and Accepting Invitations
SOI shall determine whether an Accredited Program is eligible to send or accept invitations to participate in Invitational Games. Unless otherwise authorized by SOI:
(1) Host Programs. An Accredited Program may not host Invitational Games in any year in which Regional or World Games are scheduled to take place in any location falling within that Accredited Program's Region. Invitations may be issued by the hosting Accredited Program to no more than five (5) other Accredited Programs unless SOI approves the issuance of invitations to additional Accredited Programs. Invitations shall be extended only to the Executive/Program Directors of other invited Accredited Programs, and only to Accredited Programs which are located in the same Region as the host Accredited Program.
(2) Guest Programs. Accredited Programs may accept only one invitation each year to participate in the Invitational Games held by another Program (as determined by the date(s) of the Invitational Games in question) unless otherwise approved by SOI. If SOI authorizes an Accredited Program to attend more than one Invitational Games in a given one-year period, that Program shall take different athletes to each Invitational Games, in order to maximize the number of athletes benefiting from attendance at Invitational Games.
(3) Special Invitations to Non-Accredited Organizations. Accredited Programs may not extend invitations to participate to any Sub-Programs, or to any club, organization or entity which is not an accredited Special Olympics program, without SOI's prior written approval. In certain cases, SOI may authorize an organization in a nation which has no Accredited Program to participate in an Accredited Program's Invitational Games, as a means of working toward establishing an Accredited Program. In any case in which SOI authorizes such participation, SOI will so notify the hosting Accredited Program in writing, and outline for the attending organization all terms and conditions for that organization's participation in the hosting Accredited Program's Invitational Games.
Cost of Invitational Games
The host Accredited Program shall be solely responsible for all costs associated with the conduct of Invitational Games. No such costs shall be imposed on any guest Accredited Program without SOI's approval or without the prior written consent of the guest Accredited Program. However, each guest Accredited Program shall be solely responsible for all travel costs for its delegation to and from the site of the Invitational Games. Accredited Programs which desire to attend Invitational Games are strongly encouraged to pay for the costs associated with that participation using funds raised specifically for that purpose, rather than funds which are otherwise needed to support that Accredited Program's annual operating budget.
Procedures for Obtaining SOI Approval
Host and guest Accredited Programs shall comply with the following procedures in seeking authorization from SOI to host or attend Invitational Games:
(1) Host Programs. An Accredited Program desiring to host Invitational Games shall submit a written request to its regional SOI office for authorization to conduct its Games as Invitational Games, setting forth the date and location of those Games, the number and identity of the other Accredited Programs to be invited and the number of guest athletes projected to attend. All such information shall be submitted to SOI using a standardized form approved by SOI (the "Invitational Games Authorization Form"). The Invitational Games Authorization Form shall be submitted to SOI at least six (6) months before the scheduled start of the Invitational Games. The applying Accredited Program shall specifically indicate on its Invitational Games Authorization Form whether it seeks authorization from SOI for a departure from any of the requirements for Invitational Games set forth in this Section 3.10, and if so, the Program's basis for seeking that departure. SOI shall act promptly on each such request and shall notify the applying Accredited Program in writing of SOI's decision.
(2) Guest Programs. All Accredited Programs which have received and which desire to accept invitations to attend Invitational Games shall request SOI's authorization to do so by completing the Invitational Games Authorization Form and submitting it to its SOI Regional Office no later than three months before the scheduled start of the Invitational Games. SOI shall act promptly on each such request and shall notify each prospective guest Accredited Program in writing of SOI's decision.
The provisions of this Section 3.10 shall apply as well to proposed "Invitational Tournaments," in which athletes from other Accredited Programs within a particular Region are invited to attend the hosting Accredited Program's Tournament(s) in a particular sport.
Special Olympics Unified Sports®
Special Olympics "Unified Sports®" is a program that combines Special Olympics athletes and athletes without intellectual disabilities (partners) on sports teams for training and competition. Age and ability level matching of Special Olympics athletes and partners, and the Special Olympics athletes/partner ratios, are defined on a sport-by-sport basis, in accordance with the Sports Rules. Accredited Programs shall develop Special Olympics Unified Sports® or programs that provide other opportunities for the inclusion of athletes within their respective jurisdictions. All Special Olympics Unified Sports® programs shall be conducted in accordance with the Special Olympics Unified Sports® provisions in the SOI Sports Rules.
Special Olympics Motor Activities Training Programs
A "Special Olympics Motor Activities Training Program" (or "MATP") is a Special Olympics program, the content and requirements for which are outlined in the SOI Sports Rules, which is specially designed for individuals with such severe intellectual disabilities that they cannot benefit from standard Special Olympics training and competition programs. The MATP incorporates many and varied training activities, which have been developed and tested by experts with practical experience in working with people with severe motor learning problems, which are suitable for persons with severe intellectual disabilities who are not yet able to compete in a rigorous sports training program using objective and universal sports rules. Accredited Programs are encouraged to offer MATP's within their territories. SOI shall provide Accredited Programs with written guidelines developed and approved by SOI setting forth the training activities and other approved components and procedures for a MATP. Accredited Programs shall conduct their MATP’s in accordance with SOI's written guidelines.
All Accredited Programs and GOC's should use volunteers in all aspects of their programs to the greatest extent possible, consistent with the requirements of these General Rules. To ensure the well-being and safety of athletes and the integrity and reputation of Special Olympics, each Accredited Program shall institute and enforce written procedures for screening, training and monitoring volunteers. Programs, and their respective Sub-Programs, are encouraged to model their own volunteer recruitment, training and supervision procedures after those set forth in Section 3.13 of the U.S. Specific Rules, appended to the General Rules, if permissible to do so under the laws of their respective jurisdictions.
During the course of all Special Olympics events, Accredited Programs shall properly supervise all volunteers, and take appropriate and prompt action in any instance in which a volunteer fails to comply with the policies and procedures established by the Accredited Program.