Young Athletes Program
Special Olympics Illinois has an exciting program for youth called Young Athletes. Basically, the Young Athletes program is an innovative sports play program for children ages 2-7 with intellectual disabilities and their peers, designed to introduce them into the world of sports. This program will prove enormously beneficial on multiple levels for your child. First and foremost, these activities will help the children improve physically, cognitively and socially. It will also serve as an introduction to the world of Special Olympics while showing resources and support available within Special Olympics Illinois.
The Young Athletes program is designed to address various specific levels of play, including physical activities focused on developing fundamental motor tracking and eye-hand coordination. Higher Levels concentrate on the application of these physical activities through a sports skills activity program and developing skills consistent with Special Olympics sports play and specific Special Olympics traditional sports.
The activities consist of:
- Foundational Skills
- Walking and Running
- Balance and Jumping
- Trapping and Catching
- Review of Skills as Sports
This program has seen great success in Illinois schools and agencies. If you have any questions about the program, would like to get further involved or have questions in regards to Special Olympics, please contact the Young Athletes staff at Special Olympics Illinois.
Young Athletes Transition Programs
The transition from Young Athletes to the traditional Special Olympics program is vital to the success of the organization as both athletes and volunteers are needed. It is important that those athletes that began training in Young Athletes continue to increase their confidence,
physical abilities and learn the valuable life lessons from competing as an individual or as part of a team in the traditional program. The Young Athletes peer partners hopefully have learned the importance of inclusion and developed a connection to Special Olympics Illinois that encourages them to continue to support the organization through volunteering, coaching and/or as a unified partner.
The transition from the Young Athletes program to the traditional Special Olympics program begins at age 6. When an athlete turns 6 years old, he or she may begin training in any official sport. Statewide, Special Olympics Illinois has more than 175 sanctioned competitions in 19 different sports, including eight state tournaments. Below are the Special Olympics Illinois state competitions.
Young Athletes who are 6 and 7 years old also have the opportunity to participate in exhibitions at the following state competitions:
Winter Games in Galena (January)
50 Meter and 100 Meter Snow Shoe race
State Basketball in Normal (March)
Individual Basketball Skills
State Summer Games in Normal (June)
50 Meter Run and Tennis Ball Throw, or Individual Soccer Skills
Outdoor Sports Festival in Decatur (September)
Individual Softball Skills or Individual Golf Skills
Transforming Young Athletes