Become an Athlete

“Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

gymnastics-medal3Through the power of sports, people with intellectual disabilities discover new strengths and abilities, skills and success. Our athletes find joy, confidence and fulfillment — on the playing field and in life. They also inspire people in their communities and elsewhere to open their hearts to a wider world of human talents and potential.

Special Olympics Iowa serves more than 14,000 athletes and their Unified Sports partners across the state. Our goal is to reach out to every one of them – and their families as well.

To find a contact in your area, visit our Area Pages.

Traditional Athletes

challenge-day-smile5To be eligible to participate in Special Olympics, traditional athletes must be at least eight years old and identified by an agency or professional as having one of the following conditions:

  • An intellectual disability;
  • A cognitive delay; or
  • A development disability.

Participation in Special Olympics starts at age eight, and there is no maximum age limit. Before athletes can begin competition, they must submit the SOIA Release and Medical Forms, which includes:

  • Athlete Information Form (renewed every 3 years)
  • Participant Release Form
  • Medical Forms
    • Health History
    • Physical Exam (renewed every 3 years)
    • Referral Form (if required)

Young Athletes

Children with intellectual disabilities ages two through seven can take participate in the Young Athletes program. Children enjoy games and activities that develop motor skills and hand-eye coordination, learning new things while having lots of fun!

Unified Sports Partners

People without intellectual disabilities can take part in Unified Sports, which joins people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team.  Teams are made up of approximately equal numbers of Special Olympics athletes and athletes without intellectual disabilities (called partners). Having a sport in common is just one more way that preconceptions and false ideas are swept away.