Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Text reads: Showing the Way; image is an illustration of three people.
If we want a more inclusive organization and accepting world, Special Olympics athletes must be allowed to contribute in ways beyond the sports field. One of the most powerful ways we do this is through Athlete Leadership, which creates opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities to develop and demonstrate their abilities in leadership roles.
Athlete Leadership partners with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (Special Olympics athlete leaders) to ensure they are set up to succeed in meaningful leadership roles. This is done by providing training in knowledge and skills, practical experience in roles of responsibility, and working with leaders without IDD to develop inclusive environments.
Athlete Leadership - Let us Lead

3 Guiding Principles

There are three guiding principles for Athlete Leadership. These principles provide strategic direction and outline what components are necessary to ensure athletes are “leading the way.”

Principle 1

The first principle is Education and Awareness Building utilizing the Unified Leadership approach to developing leaders. Building from sport, Unified Leadership teaches leaders (both those with AND without ID) that we all have a responsibility to develop diverse leaders.

Learn more about Unified Leadership

Principle 2

It is important that all non-Special Olympics athletes acknowledge that athletes have a choice in how and where they lead in Special Olympics. This is their program, and staff and volunteers are here to support them. But for them to succeed, they need to be trained in the areas that they choose to pursue.

Learn more about Leadership & Skills Curriculum

Principle 3

Special Olympics athletes hold the power to change the world through sport; that is the organization’s founding principle. Athlete Leadership teaches our athletes to gain the knowledge and confidence to lead programmatic work. This is their organization—we are here to support them.

Meet Athlete Leaders

See what our Athlete Leaders have to say

"Athlete Leadership is life changing, it can change the way you see things and how you communicate with others, to have the courage to stand for others and be on the front lines. It creates leaders."

Nyasha Derera - Chair, Global Athlete Contress

"We are not so different, you and I. We all have hopes, fears, and dreams. We are all human beings."

Hanako Sawayama - Athlete Leaders, Special Olympics Singapore

"The acceptance I feel in the Special Olympics community inspired me to become my best self."

Hanna Joy Atkinson - Sargent Shriver International Global Messenger
Sargent Shriver's International Global Meeting, 2019. Miriam standing in front of a projection screen holding a tablet with her other arm raised.

Meet Athlete Leaders

In order to truly become a movement led by athletes they must be given the opportunity to share their abilities, experiences and knowledge. Not only are we providing opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities but having athletes in leadership roles improves the quality of the programming and helps us meet our strategic goals as an organization.