Young Athletes™(YA) introduces children, ages 2 - 7, both with and without intellectual disabilities, and their families to the world of Special Olympics by pursuing program goals.

Program Goals

  • Engage children with intellectual disabilities through developmentally appropriate play activities designed to foster physical, intellectual and social development;
  • Welcome family members of children with intellectual disabilities to the Special Olympics network of support;
  • Raise awareness about the abilities of children with intellectual disabilities through inclusive peer participation, demonstrations and other events.

Young Athletes™ is a versatile program that is designed for families to play with their young athletes at home in a fun atmosphere but is also appropriate for preschools, schools and playgroups. The benefits for this program have been proven worldwide. First and foremost, these activities will help the children improve physically, intellectually and socially. The flexibility of Young Athletes™ ensures the opportunity to welcome families and their young children to the Special Olympics family.

This program is designed to address two specific levels of play:

  • Level 1 includes physical activities focused on developing fundamental motor tracking and eye-hand coordination.
  • Level 2 concentrates on the application of these physical activities through a sports skills activity program and developing skills consistent with Special Olympics sports play. The activities consist of foundational skills, walking and running, balance and jumping, trapping and catching, throwing, striking, kicking and advanced skills.

How does the program work?

  • Young Athlete sites are required to practice a minimum of eight sessions
  • It is recommended that these sessions are conducted over eight consecutive weeks.
  • Young athletes also practice a variety of skills building on their strengths to eventually play sports.
  • Young Athletes™ ends with a Culminating Event, much like a District or State Games. Here, athletes demonstrate the skills they’ve learned or improved upon over the weeks and participate in an awards ceremony in which all Young Athletes are acknowledged.

We hope that Young Athletes will prepare an easy transition for athletes with intellectual disabilities to participate in Special Olympics turn 8 years old.

Young Athletes™ includes several resources to guide family members, educators and other professionals as they conduct the program with their children, brothers, sisters, cousins, grandchildren, students or patients.

Young Athletes activities consist of:

  • Foundational Skills
  • Walking and Running
  • Balance and Jumping
  • Trapping and Catching
  • Throwing
  • Striking
  • Kicking
  • Advanced Skills

Activity Guide

Participating Sites

  • AC Kiefer Educational Center, Wausau
  • Darboy Kiwanis, Appleton
  • Family Resource Center for Eau Claire County, Eau Claire
  • Gigi’s Playhouse, Madison
  • Jewish Community Center, Milwaukee
  • Milwaukee Public Schools
    • Benjamin Franklin Elementary, MPS
    • Bruce Guadalupe Community School, MPS
    • Clement Avenue School, MPS
    • Engleburg Elementary, MPS
    • Forest Home Avenue Elementary, MPS
    • Honey Creek School, MPS
    • Manitoba School, MPS
    • Milwaukee French Immersion, MPS
    • Ralph Waldo Emerson, MPS
    • Riley Elementary School, MPS
  • Oconto Falls Area, Oconto Falls
  • Ozaukee County, Cedarburg
  • Penfield Montessori Academy, Milwaukee
  • Rusch Elementary School, Portage
  • St. Croix Therapy, Hudson
  • YMCA of Dane County, Madison

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