Young Athletes™

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

Young Athlete

Young Athletes™ is an inclusive sports play program for children ages 2 through 7 that prepares them for future participation in sports while improving gross motor, social and cognitive skills. It's play with a purpose!

Young Athletes welcomes children and their families into the world of Special Olympics.

  • Motor Skills. Children with ID who took part in Young Athletes developed motor skills more than twice as fast as others who did not take part.
  • Social, emotional and learning skills. Parents and teachers of children who took part in the Young Athletes curriculum said the children learned skills that they will use in pre-primary school.
  • Expectations. Family members say that Young Athletes raised their hopes for their child's future.
  • Sport readiness. Young Athletes helps children get ready to take part in sports when they are older.
  • Acceptance. Inclusive play helps children without a disability to better understand and accept others.


Celebrate what your child CAN do!
Improve gross motor skills
Develop social and language skills
PLAY with your child

See what Young Athletes is all about!

For more information, email

How can I get the Young Athletes Program for my home and register my child?

Parents, siblings, friends and Young Athletes can play together at home with games and activities listed in the FREE Caregivers and Families Young Athletes Guide.

Visit our Young Athletes at Home page to register your child as a Special Olympics New Jersey Young Athlete and find more resources to start playing at home!

How can I attend a Young Athletes Program in my community?

Play together with friends and meet new families at Young Athletes Community programs! Community programs are 45-minute guided play sessions featuring a Young Athletes coach.

Visit our Young Athletes in the Community page to find and enroll your young athlete in a community program.

Can't find a Young Athletes Community program in your area? You can start one! Email for more information.

How can my school become involved with Special Olympics and Young Athletes Program?

Young Athletes can be used in preschool, kindergarten and physical education classes to promote social inclusion and improve gross motor, social and cognitive skills. When children PLAY together, they LEARN and LIVE together!

Visit our Young Athletes in School page to for more information on school programs.

Moving on from Young Athletes: Getting Started in Special Olympics Sports

From age 6 athletes can start moving on from Young Athletes and begin training in specific sports! To learn more about sports training and competition for athletes age 6 and older, visit our Young Athletes transition page.

Young Athletes Coach Resources