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Become An Athlete

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Athletes are the heart of Special Olympics. Our athletes are children and adults with intellectual disabilities from all around the world. They are finding success, joy, and friendship as part of our global community. They’re also having lots of fun!

Become An Athlete At Special Olympics Arizona

Who Are Our Athletes?

Everybody is different. Special Olympics is for people who are different because they learn new skills slowly. They are different in other ways as well. They have an intellectual disability, or ID. Intellectual disabilities happen in all cultures, races, and countries. The goal of Special Olympics is to reach out to the nearly 200 million people worldwide with ID. Our 5 million Special Olympics athletes—ages 8 years old and up—come from more than 170 countries. We also have a Young Athletes program for children ages 2 to 7. At any age and in every country, our athletes learn new skills, make new friends, and gain fitness and confidence.

Every Day, Everywhere

Special Olympics trainings and competitions happen 365 days a year in 172 countries.

We offer 30-plus Olympic-style winter and summer sports. So whatever your age or skill level, Special Olympics has something for you. Many athletes start in one sport, then go on to try others.

Through sports, our athletes are seeing themselves for their abilities, not their disabilities. Their world is opened with acceptance and understanding. They become confident and empowered by their accomplishments. They are also making new friends, as part of the most inclusive community on the planet—a global community that is growing every day.

Abdel-Raman Hassan is an athlete whose life changed after he joined Special Olympics. He’s a swimmer with ID from Saudi Arabia. He is also partially paralyzed. Yet he doesn’t let anything—or anyone—put limits on his abilities.

His talent for swimming did not come naturally or easily. Abdel-Raman’s father says it took him a month to hold his breath underwater for three seconds. It took him a year to swim a distance of one meter. He did not give up. Abdel-Raman went on to win gold medals in 25- and 50-meter races at World Summer Games. He is a champion.

From Athletes to Leaders

Through sports training and competitions, Special Olympics helps people with ID find joy, acceptance, and success. As their lives open up, athletes gain the confidence that comes with achievement. They feel empowered. They are ready to take on new leadership challenges to make use of their new abilities. They can become mentors for other athletes. They can train to become coaches and officials. They can also move toward a more public role as a speaker or spokesperson. They can speak to audiences and journalists about the positive changes that Special Olympics helped bring about in their lives. At Special Olympics, our athletes are empowered to share their many gifts and talents with society.

Yet, it’s more than that. Our athletes also become empowered to be leaders in society—and teach us all about acceptance and understanding.

Become An Athlete Today!

Special Olympics Arizona (SOAZ) programs are at no cost to the participants. To begin the adventure of making friends and learning new skills, follow the 3 easy steps below:

Step 1: Find a Local Program and contact your Area Staff
Step 2: Complete the Athlete Medical & Consent Form
Step 3: Complete the Communicable Disease Waiver


Be at least 8 years old to become an athlete at SOAZ. (Younger children are eligible to participate in the Young Athletes Program).
Have a current Medical and Consent Form on file.
Identified by an agency or professional as having one of the following conditions: intellectual disability; a cognitive delay as determined by standardized measures such as intelligence quotient or other generally accepted measures; or a closely related development disability, i.e., functional limitations in both general learning and adaptive skills.


Children ages two to seven are eligible to become an athlete in the Young Athletes Program.


Children at least two years old are eligible to become an athlete in the Inclusive Young Athletes Program.
Be at least six years old for Area Competitions.
Be at least eight years old for State Competitions.
Be at least 16 years old for World/National Competitions.


Children who are six and seven years old are eligible to become an athlete in area competitions. Must have a current Medical & Consent Form on file.


Be at least eight years old to become an athlete for state games.
Have a current Medical & Consent Form on file.


Be at least 16 years old to become an athlete in World & USA Games.
Have a current Medical & Consent Form on file.
Other specific qualifications required per competition.

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