Young Athletes

aYoung Athletes™ is an innovative sports play program for children with and without intellectual disabilities age 2 to 7. The program includes active games, songs, and other play activities that help children develop motor, social, and cognitive skills. The Young Athletes™ Curriculum is based on the Young Athletes™ Activity Guide and provides scripted Lesson Plans to be used over an 8 week period. Check out our Young Athletes One Page Snapshot.

Program Models

There are three unique models of Young Athletes™ Programs: At Home, School Based, and Community Based.

  • At Home: The At Home model is implemented at home by a parent or caregiver for an individual child or a child and siblings.
  • School Based: The School Based model is implemented in a preschool, day care, or elementary school setting for a class of students by a teacher or paraprofessional.
  • Community Based: The Community Based model is implemented in a community setting in a park, church, school gym, or another donated or rented space for members of the community by a trained volunteer.

Contact Alexandra Rowlands at [email protected] to see what local Young Athletes™ programs are available and accepting new participants in our area.  If you would like to start a Young Athletes Program in your home, school or community, please log into the online portal to complete a basic training. The training can be found under the  “Training Schools, Webinars and More” tab and consists of a 25 minute video and a short quiz. Once you have completed both, you will be contacted by Young Athletes staff liaison, Jordan Schubert to schedule a call with you, your Local Program Manager/Director and anyone else you would like to be a part of the conversation. If you have any questions on this training, or anything else related to Young Athletes, contact Jordan at [email protected].

Support and Inspiration

The Young Athletes™ program helps children all around the world, thanks to the support of The Mattel Children’s Foundation, Toys R Us, Kim Samuel and the Lynch Family Foundation. Their help leads children with intellectual disabilities into a bright new world of sports and social skills, pride and possibility.

Activity Guides and Kits

  • The Young Athletes™ @ Home Guide, Activity Guide, and Equipment Kits are available from Special Olympics PA by contacting Jordan Schubert at [email protected].
  • At Home participants will receive a Young Athletes™ @ Home Guide that will provide you with the tools and resources that allow you to play with your child in a non-clinical setting, while promoting the development of many cognitive and physical skills.
  • At School and Community Based participants will receive a Young Athletes™ Equipment Kit and Program Manual (including the Activity Guide, Lesson Plans, and more) that will provide you with the tools and resources to begin a group Young Athletes™ program. Please refer to the Young Athletes Toolkit and Lesson Guidebook with any questions about equipment and how to run a Home, School or Community based Young Athletes Program.
  • Special Olympics Pennsylvania always pushes its athletes to perform at their very best. The same thing applies in Young Athletes. Young Athletes volunteers now have the opportunity to track their athletes’ progress through the Motor Skills Assessment.

Young Athletes Exhibitions at State Events

Special Olympics Pennsylvania offers one day Young Athletes exhibitions at two of its state events: The Indoor Winter Games at the York Expo Center in York, PA (the first Saturday of every March) and Young Athletes One Page Snapshot at Villanova University in Villanova, PA (the first Saturday of every November). These exhibitions are a chance for Young Athletes to take part in sports skills stations, make new friends and see what Special Olympics Pennsylvania offers beyond Young Athletes. This is also an opportunity to attract potential new Young Athletes and their families to current Local Program liaisons. As more Local Programs begin offering Young Athletes, more exhibitions will be hosted at other state level events.

Special Olympics Beyond Young Athletes

Once an athlete turns 6, they are eligible to begin training in Special Olympics sports with their Local Program. Once they turn 8, they are then eligible to begin competing. To learn more about transitioning from Young Athletes to your Local Program, please review our informational handout.

Additional Resources

Activity Guide Videos

Is your school interested in the Unified Champion Schools program?

Click here to fill out a school interest form.

Contact Us

If you are interested in learning more about becoming a Unified Champion School please contact:  Mike Bovino, Senior Advisor, at [email protected].

If you are a current Unified Champion School and have questions, please contact: Jason Merola, Regional Sports Director, 610.850.0449, ext. 4 or [email protected].


Impact of Unified Champion Schools

  • Fosters social inclusion as students and teammates with and without disabilities become friends.
  • Creates school climates that promote respect, acceptance, and diversity. Students are valued for their unique talents and skills.
  • Reduces bullying through empowerment, awareness, and engagement while also improving health and fitness, especially for students with disabilities facing higher risks.
  • Develops character, life skills, and enhanced self-esteem as youth become core leaders in their school communities using Unified Sports and Spread the Word to End the Word as the catalyst for impacting change in a school climate.
  • Administrators and teachers take the educated risk to support the vision and insight of youth to create inclusive environments in their schools through Unified Sports and youth leadership opportunities with a clear vision of impacting school environments.
  • The inspiration and passion that comes from experiencing Special Olympics sports motivates young people to seek a world of unity, and then provides students with and without disabilities with the skills and opportunities to create social change.
  • Policymakers and education leaders develop policies and support quality practices to encourage positive school climates with safe and nurturing learning environments for all students.