We are REAL Sports
Special Olympics helps people of all ages with intellectual disabilities improve their fitness, learn sports skills, and experience the joy of competition and winning through regular training and year-round events.
With 24 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 22,900 athletes in our state. 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.
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 Partners) on sports teams for training and competition. This program has been successful on and off of the field. It has brought inclusion to Special Olympics athletes and expanded friendships far beyond sports events. SO-SC offers Unified Sports® competition in badminton, basketball, bocce, bowling, cheerleading, disc golf, flag football, golf, kayaking, sailing, soccer, softball, team handball, tennis, track and field, and volleyball.
Opportunities at State Level and Beyond
- State Basketball Tournament: Held in Columbia each April. This competition offers all levels of basketball competition.
- State Summer Games: Held in Columbia (Fort Jackson) each May includes aquatics, badminton, masters bocce, bowling (under 21), gymnastics, powerlifting, softball, track & field
- State Cheer Competition: Held in Irmo, this competition features all levels of cheerleading events including individual and squad competitions.
- State Fall Games: Held in Greenville each November includes bocce (under 21), masters bowling, disc golf, flag football, golf, soccer, tennis, and volleyball.
SO-SC also participates in the Southeast Region (NC, TN, AL, MS, LA, GA, FL, SC) for alpine skiing, powerlifting and sailing and in national competitions in golf, tennis and bowling. Annually, SO-SC hosts invitationals in sailing and the Special Olympics North America Tennis Championships.
Special Olympics holds National Games every 4 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. World Games have been held in Athens, Greece; South Korea; China and in July 2015, Los Angeles, California.
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.