Benefits of Participation

No matter the person's age or skill level, Special Olympics Southern California has something for every person with intellectual disabilities. We deliver high-quality, year-round competition and training opportunities in an inclusive culture that stresses athletic excellence, rewards determination, emphasizes health, and celebrates personal achievement.


Physical exercise positively impacts health, mood and anxiety. Emphasis on sports training helps athletes maintain a healthy weight.


Through sports, our athletes see themselves for their abilities, not disabilities. They become confident and empowered by their accomplishments.


As athletes become empowered, they have opportunities to get involved in decision making, public speaking, and leadership roles.


Athletes have many opportunities to make friends and socialize in an accepting environment. They discover they are not alone.


12 Year-Round Sports

Special Olympics offers 12 Olympic-style individual and team sports that provide meaningful training and competition opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Sports offered are: Aquatics, Athletics (Track & Field), Basketball, Bocce, Bowling, Floor Hockey, Golf, Gymnastics, Soccer, Softball, Tennis and Volleyball.

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From Area Games to World Games, athletes have the opportunity to compete on multiple stages and against athletes from across the globe.

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Unified Sports

Unified Sports ® joins people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team. It was inspired by a simple principle: playing together is a quick path to friendship and understanding. Our opponent is intolerance, and as long as we come together on the field of play, we can defeat it.

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Young Athletes

Young Athletes ® is a unique sport and play program for children with intellectual disabilities. The focus is on fun activities that are important to mental and physical growth. Children ages 2 to 7 enjoy games and activities that develop motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Young Athletes is an early introduction to sports and to the world of Special Olympics.

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School Partnership Program

We partner with various schools and districts in order to bring sports trainings and competition opportunities to students of all ages. We encourage all students and teachers to participate not only in sports but in youth leadership opportunities and coaching.

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Athlete Leadership Programs

Along with shining on the sports field, athletes have the opportunity to shine off the field through the Athlete Leadership Program. Athletes are empowered to utilize their voices to assume meaningful leadership roles, influence change in the Special Olympics movement, and help create more accepting and inclusive communities around the world.

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Healthy Athletes Program

Keeping our athletes healthy so they can compete is a key goal of Special Olympics. That's why athletes can receive free health screenings during select competitions. At Healthy Athletes, healthcare professionals and students provide podiatry, hearing, optometry, dental, dietary, and fitness screenings. The screenings are held in a welcoming and fun environment that remove the anxiety and trepidation people with intellectual disabilities often experience when faced with a visit to a doctor or dentist.

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Facts & Figures

Free. Special Olympics programs are free to all athletes and their families.

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

More than 28,000 athletes from San Luis Obispo and Bakersfield to San Diego train and compete.

Athletes train and compete year-round in two sports seasons.

Programs available for people with intellectual disabilities aged 2 1/2 and older

Special Olympics athletes are twice as likely to have a job


Zachary Alonzo

Zachary Alonzo

Participates in: Golf Level 2. Has also participated in Bocce, Softball, and Bowling
Region: Northern Santa Barbara County
Number of years in Special Olympics: 4

When you talk about inspirational athletes, the first thought that comes to mind is someone who is outgoing, a hard worker, and has a positive attitude. Zach is a hard worker who has a great attitude, but outgoing he is not; he has been a very reserved person. It is just his personality to be quiet. A few years ago, a smile from Zach was like someone scoring a touchdown in the Super Bowl. Things started to change though. As Zach had success on the golf course he started to blossom in other areas of his life. He has been tapped for a promotion at work because of his development. Two summers ago he was almost unable to go to Summer Games because he was struggling with some medical issues and was worried about being away from his parents. By October 2014 he had developed enough to travel to Indianapolis for four days for World Games training camp. While he had a partner accompanying him, he was on his own for an extended time for the first time ever. Nowadays with Zach, we not only see a lot more smiles, but we actually get laughs. Four years ago, you were lucky to get a word or two. Now we are starting to have conversations. Zach has become a leader on the golf team and an inspiration, not only to us, but to people in the community.

ReRe Bowens

ReRe Bowens

Participates in: 25M Assisted Walk, 25M Wheelchair race, Softball throw
Region: Tri-Valley
Number of years in Special Olympics: 4

Spend one minute with ReRe and you will find yourself smiling. She brings a beautiful smile and enthusiasm to every practice. She trains hard and loves to compete. ReRe is always cheerful and positive and always supports her fellow athletes. Her coaches will tell you that she is a hardworking and dedicated athlete.

ReRe never lets her disability hold her back. She used to only participate using her manual wheelchair. She decided that she wanted to push herself, so she worked hard and now participates in the 25M Assisted Walk.

ReRe is an inspiration to her mom, her coaches and peers. Her ability to stay positive and be in the moment reminds us all that life is good and to appreciate all that we have.


Athlete Testimonials

Paul Hoffman has competed in Special Olympics for more than 30 years and is passionate about the changes sports have made in his life. Not only has athletics made him a healthier person, but it has given him more self-confidence and a sense of pride.

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