Athlete Leadership

This resource provides tools and materials to help Programs, volunteers and Athlete Leaders launch and expand Athlete Leadership initiatives in their Programs.

What is Athlete Leadership?

Athlete Leadership empowers athletes to develop leadership skills and utilize their voices and abilities to undertake meaningful leadership roles, influence change in the Special Olympics movement and create inclusive communities around the world. As athletes gain the confidence that comes with achievement, they feel empowered and ready to take on new challenges to make use of all their abilities. We thank Bank of America for their commitment to supporting Athlete Leadership.

Meet Athlete Leaders

Today individuals with intellectual disabilities serve on Boards of Directors, as coaches, officials and are employed by Special Olympics around the globe. We want the world to be inclusive and need Special Olympics athletes to contribute in ways beyond the sports field. Athletes must lead the way, educating the world about their potential and driving Special Olympics forward through their insights and contributions.

If you are just getting started

We recommend all Programs and athletes begin with offering or taking the “Introduction to Athlete Leadership” course to ground Programs and Athlete Leaders in the principles and foundation of Athlete Leadership. You can also use the “Beyond the Vision” presentation to demonstrate the value of Athlete Leadership within your Program and gain buy-in from key stakeholders.

When you are ready to offer Athlete Leadership training

There are two suggested approaches to offering training.  The first approach is the Training Series where courses are taken based on athlete interest and ability, and can be taken in any order. This is a good way to go if you are just getting started, your Program has very specific training needs, and/or you have limited resources and cannot offer the full curriculum.  The second approach is the University Curriculum model where courses are taken sequentially, around a "major" or discipline such as communications, sports or technology. Regardless of approach, paramount is giving athletes the ability to choose their area(s) of interest, so that their passion can flourish with proper training.

The Curriculum


Athlete Leadership Training

The resources provided here will help Programs, volunteers and Athlete Leaders launch and expand Athlete Leadership initiatives in their Programs. They can also help demonstrate the value of Athlete Leadership to others, empower athletes to self-advocate, and ensure that athletes are given every opportunity to meaningfully contribute to the growth and quality of the movement. Get Started