Athlete Leadership

Athlete Leadership

The purpose of Athlete Leadership is to empower Special Olympics athletes to develop leadership skills and utilize their voices and abilities to take on meaningful leadership roles, influence change in the Special Olympics movement and create inclusive communities. 

Athlete Leadership is about breaking down the barriers that keep athletes from fully enjoying Special Olympics through self-directed, meaningful participation in virtually any aspect of the program. Being a leader transforms a Special Olympics athlete from someone receiving services to someone providing services!

Athlete Leadership Overview (one-page PDF)


Leadership Opportunities

Below are some opportunities that Special Olympics programs around the world have already implemented for decades. We are proud to say that we have athletes in Florida that fit every category listed below:

  • Athlete Leadership Councils
  • Global Messengers (spokespersons)
  • Health Messengers (spokespersons)
  • Athletes as Coaches
  • Athletes as Officials
  • Athletes as Volunteers
  • Athletes as Donors
  • Athletes on Management Teams
  • Athletes on Games Evaluation Teams
  • Athletes as contributors to newsletters
  • Athletes employed by Special Olympics Florida
  • Athletes on Board Committees
  • Athlete on the State Board of Directors


Become an Athlete Leader

Athlete Leadership trainings occur virtually and in-person and cover a variety of topics. Once Athlete Leaders have completed two foundation courses, they can register for many different classes and learn about leadership opportunities such as public speaking, coaching, fundraising, health, and more.


Let us know if you are interested in becoming an Athlete Leader, and we will get you started on your journey of new experiences.

View our Events Calendar for specific courses and training dates being offered each month.

Become a Community Leader

There are many athletes who play an important role as leaders in their community and may not be interested in completing the Athlete Leadership courses.  These athletes can go through a nomination process and complete a short online training to be recognized as a Community Leader.   Contact us for more information.

Unified Leadership Approach

People with intellectual disabilities (ID), exemplified by the athletes of Special Olympics Florida, teach everyone the true value of inclusion and have the potential to shape a new understanding of what it means to contribute and lead in today’s world. 

Despite significant advances in recent years, the skills and experiences of people with ID can still be utilized and valued more. They are often unable to achieve their leadership potential because of the attitudes, behaviors and low expectations of people without disabilities, and still have few meaningful opportunities to show what they can do. In order to overcome this barrier, the thoughts and actions of leaders without disabilities – often the greatest challenge faced by people with ID – need to change. This requires a new approach to leadership development and a sustained shift in behavior. 

Building from sport, Unified Leadership teaches leaders of all abilities to value and learn from each other and create environments where people with ID succeed in meaningful jobs and roles. Through training and partnership, Unified Leadership teaches people without disabilities to:

  • VALUE - See people with intellectual disabilities as contributors, leaders, people to learn from
  • INCLUDE - Adapt behaviors and processes to create environments where people with intellectual disabilities succeed in meaningful roles and jobs
  • ENABLE - Let go and share or transfer power to people with intellectual disabilities and let them lead
How are we implementing the Unified Leadership approach?

We invite members of businesses and organizations to attend a 30-minute Unified Leadership panel led by Special Olympics Florida athletes who will use their experiences to educate leaders of your organization to better understand how to increase inclusivity and benefit from diversity.   Panels can be held virtually or in-person and arranged to fit your companies schedule.

Register your organization to take part in the Unified Leadership Initiative today!

Unified Leadership Overview (one-page PDF)




Learn more about your local program.

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