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Coaching Guide

Coaching Special Olympics Athletes

Table of Contents


Part I: Frequently Asked Questions

What Do I Need to Know About The Athlete with Intellectual Disability?

What Are The Mental, Psychological and Social Considerations I Should Be Aware of?

How Can I Train and Coach Athletes More Positively and More Successfully to Improve TheirPerformance and Behavior?

Is There A Specific Training Plan I Should Follow For The Season Or Can I Be Creative?

How Does an Individual With Intellectual Disabilities Learn Sport Skills And Rules?

Part II: What to Expect From the Athletes

Learning Considerations

Medical Considerations

Social Considerations

Part III: What to Expect From Yourself as the CoachHelp Athletes Select Appropriate Sports and Levels of Participation

Offer a Range Of Activities/Events for All Ability Levels

Provide Safe Training and Competition Opportunities

Conduct High Quality Training and Competition

Involve Families and/or Other Support Groups

Assist Athletes to Becoming Integrated Into the Overall Community

Part IV: Information andProblem Solving

Oral Expression

Listening Comprehension

Attention Skills

Social Perception

Accommodations for Persons with Physical Challenges

Intellectual Disability and Other Closely Related Developmental Disabilities

Athlete Behavior Characteristics and Strategies to Improve Learning


Special Olympics is committed to coaching excellence.The most important thing to know as a coach in Special Olympics is that your athletes are individuals, and coaching them is just like coaching any other youth or community sports team. The skills that make successful coaches are the same whether you are coaching National Olympic teams, High School or University teams, community sports clubs or youth teams or Special Olympics teams. But werecognize that there are some situations that make Special Olympics coaching unique (and thus more enjoyable!).

This section is designed to provide tools for recognizing coaching situations and opportunities that may be unique to the Special Olympics coaching environment. At the end of this section, we have provided some tables that other coaches have found helpful in planning or adjusting practicestrategies to help athletes and coaches alike become more successful.

In addition to the resources found here, many Special Olympics Programs offer occasional workshops for coaches on this subject. Please visit our program locator at to see when the next Coaching Special Olympics AthletesWorkshop is scheduled in your Special Olympics Program.

This section is divided into four parts

1. Frequently Asked Questions
1. What do I need to know about the athlete with intellectual disability?

2. What are the mental, psychological and social considerations I should be aware of?

3. How can I train and coach athletes more positively and more successfully to improve theirperformance and behavior?

4. Is there a specific training plan I should follow for the season or can I be creative?

5. How does an individual with intellectual disabilities learn sport skills and rules, and what can a coach do to facilitate learning (training sequence, levels of instruction)?

What to Expect From the Athletes

What to Expect From Yourself as the CoachInformation and Problem Solving
6. Description of Common Behaviors and Recommended Accommodations

7. Intellectual Disability and Other Closely Related Developmental Disabilities

8. Athlete Behavior Characteristics and Strategies to Improve Learning

Part I: Frequently Asked Questions

These are some of the questions asked most frequently by coaches new to Special Olympics:

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