We are REAL Sports

Sports is at the core of Special Olympics.  Providing sports programs to individuals with intellectual disabilities not only provides a fun, healthy and social opportunity to Special Olympics athletes, it also empowers athletes to be leaders and contributing members of their communities.  Through sports, Special Olympics breaks down barriers among people of all abilities, from the volunteer that serves as a scorekeeper at an event to the unified partner who becomes teammates and friends with someone with special needs through Unified Sports.  That is the power of sports and the spirit of Special Olympics in action.
With 27 sports to choose from, athletes can train for many different skills and sports. Enrolling in Special Olympics South Carolina means joining a family of more than 29,614 athletes state-wide. Through Special Olympics South Carolina, athletes gain self-esteem, discipline, and courage, which carry over to all other aspects of their lives, including school, home, and the workplace.

Special Olympics begins on the local level where certified coaches organize a program and supervise a minimum of 8-weeks of training for athletes. Sports guides that include 10 full weeks of lesson plans are available online and Sports Managers hold coaches’ training sessions on a regular basis.  Often a coach may be a school teacher who works with his/her students.  A coach could be be a golf professional who, with the cooperation of a parent, offers weekly golf lessons or a parks and recreation employee who is serving “Special Pops” through their organization. girl volleyball

Once the required training is completed, athletes can participate in their local competition. After participating in a local competition, athletes are then eligible for a State competition.  Athletes may only compete in one sport at a state event.  Advancement to a state event depends on the athlete’s completion of the training and his/her ability to travel with the area delegation.  Parents may be delegation members only if they are registered as a coach or chaperone.

Unified Sports Program® Special Olympics Unified Sports® combines approximately equal numbers of Special Olympics athletes with athletes without intellectual disabilities (called Unified Partners) on sports teams for training and competition.  This program is successful on and off of the field. It brings inclusion to Special Olympics athletes and expanded friendships far beyond sports.  SO-SC offers Unified Sports® competition in badminton, basketball, bocce, bowling, cheerleading, disc golf, flag football, golf, gymnastics (artistic & rhythmic) kayaking, sailing, soccer, swimming, softball, tennis, track and field, and volleyball.

State Competitions

State Basketball Championship - Spring


This competition offers all levels of basketball including traditional and unified divisions, collegiate divisions and skills.

State Summer Games - Spring


This multi-sport competition takes place in Columbia. Sports include Bocce, Bowling, Gymnastics, Powerlifting, Softball, Swimming and Track & Field.

State Cheer - Spring

Held in Columbia, this competition features all levels of cheerleading events including individual and squad competitions. 

State Equestrian Show - Spring

This competition features equestrians from around the state. Typically held at the Aiken Horse Park Foundation.

State Kayaking Competition - Summer

Kayak teams from around the state compete in various races at James Island State Park in Charleston.

State Tennis Championship - Fall

Typically held in September, our State Tennis Championship is known as September Slammer! Athletes from around the state come to Columbia to compete in various levels of tennis.

State Fall Games

Fall Games is held in Conway, SC at Coastal Carolina University. This multi-sport weekend event brings more than 1400 athletes, coaches and unified partners plus even more families and volunteers to the Grand Strand area. Fall sports include Under 21 Bocce, Masters Bowling, Disc golf, Golf, Flag football and soccer.


National and International CompetitionsTara Freeman

Special Olympics North America holds USA Games every four years.  The first USA Games were held in Ames, Iowa in 2006.  SC took a delegation of 104, the 4th largest in the country.  In 2010, games were held in Lincoln, Nebraska, SC’s delegation was the 5th largest with 147.  And in 2014, games were held in Princeton, New Jersey and SC’s delegation was a record number of athletes, partners and coaches with 171 members.  South Carolina provides many opportunities for our athletes, partners, teams and coaches to participate on the national and international level.

Special Olympics holds World Games every 4 years rotating Winter Games and Summer Games on a two-year basis.   

Competition Structure

2014 SC Special Olympics - IMG_9568

A key component to our competitions is how we division.  Athletes are divisioned for competition by gender, age and ability.  A competition division or “heat” should consist of athletes that are close to the same age, often the same gender and all having preliminary scores within 10% of each other.  Using ability divisioning, all athletes arrive at a competition with equal opportunity to earn a gold medal. Once first place is determined for each division, all first place winners are considered of equal value to the sports department.  It does not matter if an athlete bowled a 200 or a 20.  Names, and not scores, are recorded for advancement.  So an athlete that takes two minutes to run the 100 meters may represent SOSC at an international event as well as the one running the same event in 30 seconds. The slot for advanced opportunities is determined by a draw.

© 2015 South Carolina Special Olympics, 109 Oak Park Drive, Irmo, SC 29063