What does every child want? The chance to kick a ball, to throw it well, to share that success with family members. What does every child with intellectual disabilities want? The exact same thing.

A Head Start

Special Olympics Young Athletes™ is a sport and play program for children with and without intellectual disabilities, ages 2 to 7 years old. Young Athletes introduces basic sport skills, like running, kicking and throwing. Children learn how to play with others and develop important skills for learning. Young Athletes™ is a fun way for children to get fit. It is a good way of teaching children healthy habits while they are young. Parents say their children in Young Athletes also develop better social skills. The confidence boost makes it easier for them to play and talk with other children on the playground and elsewhere.

Michigan Young Athletes™ having fun.

Most Young Athlete programs are eight to twelve weeks in length and meet once or twice a week. Each week athletes focus on the basic skill designated towards that week in a fun atmosphere. Existing Young Athletes programs range anywhere from a handful of Young Athletes in their program, to dozens of Young Athletes in their program. No program is too small, nor too big!

If you recently learned that your child has an intellectual disability, or are new to Special Olympics, download the New Family Guide by clicking here. This 28-page PDF guide outlines treatments, therapies, supports and services that can help a child with ID reach their potential throughout their life.

How to get an athlete involved

If you have an athlete that you would like to get involved in either an existing program, or you are interested in starting you own program, please complete the short questionnaire found by clicking HERE.

How to read the map:

• Blue Marker - School Based Programs (Must be enrolled in school to participate in program)

• Red Marker - Community Based Programs

• Click on Marker - Lists address, county, and area of program

Interested in starting a Young Athletes™ program?

If you are interested in starting a Young Athletes program, please reach out to one of the contacts below.

Community programs contacts

Northern Region & Upper Peninsula: Kellie Murphy

Southwest Region: Nick Caudle

Southeast Region: Rick Brady

School programs contact

All regions: Danielle Arnold

Where to host a Young Athletes™ program?

Most Young Athletes programs are held at schools, churches and rec centers (YMCA, Boys & Girls Clubs, etc.). We recommend forming a partnership with one of these in your local community.

What does it take to operate a Young Athletes™ program?

A typical Young Athletes program runs anywhere from eight to twelve weeks in length and offers a one hour program each week. Athletes will focus on developing a certain skill each week such as balance, throwing, catching, etc. Athletes participating in Young Athlete programs also have the opportunity to attend State Culminating events where Young Athletes expos are offered (i.e. State Summer Games, State Fall Games, etc.).

When starting a Young Athletes™ program, you will be provided with a Young Athletes™ kit from your regional Young Athletes™ Coordinator. This kit includes:

• (x2) Jr. Tennis Racquets

• (x3) Juggling Scarves

• (x1) Set of Boundary Markers

• (x6) Colored Rubber Floor Markers

• (x6) Colored Plastic Cones

• (x3) Cone Crossbars

• (x1) Grabby Ball

• (x1) Striped Foam Ball

• (x6) Nylon Bean Bags

• (x1) Beach Ball

• (x2) Pairs of Foam Hoop Holders

• (x2) Segmented Hoops

• (x1) Oversized Shuttlecock

• (x3) 3" Fleece Ball

• (x1) White Mesh Tote

• (x1) Bag