Young Athletes

Getting a Head Start

Special Olympics Young Athletes is an early childhood sport and play program for children with and without intellectual disabilities, ages 2 to 7 years old. Young Athletes introduces basic sport skills, like running, kicking and throwing. Young Athletes offers families, teachers, caregivers and people from the community the chance to share the joy of sports with all children.


Young Athletes provides children of all abilities the same opportunities to advance in core developmental milestones. Children gain experience in playing with others and develop important skills for learning such as sharing, taking turns and following directions. These skills help children in family, community and school activities.


For more information on Young Athletes contact:
UCS District Coordinator-Teresa Rainforth

Young Athlete Program Goals

Motor Skills

Children with intellectual disabilities who took part in Young Athletes programming developed motor skills more than twice as fast as others who did not take part.  Research indicates the benefits of this program persisted consistently after the program ended; at 5 and 10-month follow-up intervals, children who participated maintained a 4-month advantage in development in key areas of human and motor development.

Social, emotional and learning skills

Young athletes help build self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.  Parents and teachers of children who took part in the Young Athletes curriculum said the children learned skills that they will use in pre-primary school.  These skills will continue to benefit children in family, community, and school activities.


Family members say that participation in Young Athletes programming raised their hopes for their child’s future, increased understanding, as well as inspired them to higher expectations about their child’s capabilities.

Sport readiness

Young Athletes programming helps children develop important movement and basic sport skills.  This fun and exciting learning experience prepares them to participate in sports when they are older.


Inclusive play helps children without a disability better understand and accept others.  It also creates a community of support for parents and caregivers of children with ID.