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For sport-specific information, please scroll down and find the sport on the left under “Sports Offered.”

Special Olympics North Carolina (SONC) offers sports training and competition in 19 Olympic-type sports (listed on the left-hand side of this page) to nearly 40,000 individuals with intellectual disabilities. Athletes train for a minimum of eight weeks with an average 1-2 practices per week. Sports competition is available for eligible athletes 8 years old and older, and there is no age limit.

In addition to the 19 official sports offered by SONC, flag football is a recognized sport, with many competition and training opportunities occurring throughout the state. Sailing and floor hockey are also sports where athletes train and compete locally.

Young Athletes Program — for ages 2-7 with and without an intellectual disability

Motor Activities Training Program — for athletes with more profound disabilities

Sports Offered & Sport Events

The complete listing of sports can be found to the left. Click on any sport to see which events are offered and rules as well as pertinent registration forms. Visit the page for your local program (county) to see if a particular sport is offered in your community.

Special Olympics follows the National Governing Body (NGB) rules for all sports listed above with some modifications as outlined in the SOI Official Sport Rules and in the SONC Sports rules and modifications.

The 2015-2016 Sport & Organizational Updates and Reminders is a great resource that summaries all the sport changes for the program year, as well as highlights some reminders!

Competition & Divisioning

One of the main differences that sets Special Olympics apart from other sport organizations is divisioning. View this Divisioning video from Special Olympics Inc.

Age Groups

An athlete’s age group is determined by the athlete’s age on the opening date of the Games or competition. The age of the oldest athlete on a team is used to determine the age group in which that team will compete. Depending on the type of competition (individual or team) and the sport, age groups may differ.

Maximum Effort Rule (formerly known as the Honest Effort Rule): Athletes are also expected to give maximum effort when competing. This is the only way the divisioning process can work as it was intended. Athletes who do not participate honestly and with maximum effort in all preliminary trials and/or finals violate the true spirit of competition and may even be disqualified from competition. SONC will use the maximum effort rule for state-level competition in aquatics (swimming) and athletics (track and field).

Regional Games

Opportunities for SONC athletes to compete at southeast region and national level events are growing and programs are encouraged to send athletes to these competitions whenever possible. They are listed on the sport web page.

Annually, SONC hosts the Southeast U.S. Region Alpine Skiing / Snowboarding competition in Boone/Blowing Rock the first Sunday in February.

 The next state-level event is…

Summer Games

scheduled for June 3-5 in Raleigh & Cary.Become a Special Olympics Athlete!

Become a Special Olympics Coach!

If you do not have an intellectual disability but are interested in competing alongside your friend, sibling, etc. who does qualify for Special Olympics, you can do so through Unified Sports.

What is a scrimmage?

A scrimmage is like an exhibition game. Teams or athletes meet for an informal game. These teams can be from the same county or different counties. While the rules of the sport are still followed and score is usually still kept, awards are not given to the winning team or athlete.

What is an invitational?

An invitational is a competition hosted by a local program. Attendance at invitationals is optional.  The standard of qualifications to officiate is higher as the outcome has an impact on awards. For some sports, officials will expect to be paid. An invitational should resemble state-level competition as much as possible, just on a smaller scale. Divisioning can be done based on team/athlete ratings.

U.S.A. Games

Every four years, gold medal winners from state-level competition are entered into a random drawing to be selected to represent North Carolina at the U.S.A. Games. The most recent U.S.A. Games occurred June 14-21, 2014 in Princeton, New Jersey.

World Games

Every two years (alternating between Summer and Winter), gold medal winners from state-level competition are entered into a random drawing to be selected to be a part of Special Olympics Team USA at the World Games.

The most recent World Games was the 2015 World Summer Games in Los Angeles, California.

To learn more about sports with Special Olympics North Carolina, contact Andrea Stamm. For volunteer opportunities, contact Michelle Bandklayder.