Sports & Competitions Overview

Special Olympics North Carolina (SONC) offers sports training and competition in 19 Olympic-type sports 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.

Special Olympics North Carolina adheres to sport training and competition guidelines set forth by Special Olympics, Inc. as stated in Article I of the Special Olympics Sports Rules.

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

Competition Opportunities

Upcoming State-Level Event


Fall Tournament

The 2018 Special Olympics North Carolina Fall Tournament will take place November 9-11 at various Charlotte locations.

Additional Opportunities

Local Invitationals

Local programs across the state are offering competition opportunities through invitationals in various sports.  Check out the SONC calendar to see a full listing!

USA Games

2022 Special Olympics USA Games

Every four years, Special Olympics holds a national competition for Special Olympics athletes from across the United States. The next USA Games will take place in 2022 in Orlando, Florida.

World Games

2019 Special Olympics World Winter Games

Alternating between Summer and Winter Games, the Special Olympics World Games occur every two years and feature intense athletic competition and inspiring performances from talented Special Olympics athletes from across the globe. The next World Summer Games will be in 2019 in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Sports Calendar

Find out if this sport is offered in your community

Want to Become an Athlete?

For ages 8 and older: Learn More

For ages 2-7: Learn more about Young Athletes

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®!

Learn More about Unified Sports®

Want to become a Special Olympics Coach?

Learn More

Want to become a Team Captain?

Learn More

To Learn More About…

Sports with Special Olympics North Carolina


Volunteer Opportunities