Sports Program and Competition Overview

Today, more than 3 million children and adults with intellectual disabilities participate in more than 200 programs in 165 countries.  In New Mexico, Special Olympics serves over 3,300 athletes, offering training and competition in 12 sports.

Sports Competition and Training

Training and competition is offered in the following sports: Aquatics, Athletics (track & field), Basketball, Bocce, Bowling, Equestrian, Flag Football, Golf, Rhythmic Gymnastics, Poly Hockey, Unified Softball, and Unified Volleyball.

In addition to these Olympic-type sports, Special Olympics New Mexico offers a Motor Activities Training Program, designed for those challenged with severe and profound disabilities. Every Special Olympics competition is patterned after the Olympic Games, from opening ceremonies filled with pageantry to supervision by qualified sports officials.

Prior to any Special Olympics New Mexico competition, all athletes engage in an extensive training program for a minimum of eight weeks.  Athletes develop fitness and sports skills, and learn rules and strategies from their coaches, officials, and games management team members.  This ensures that all athletes receive the highest quality Olympic competition.


Persons are eligible for Special Olympics provided they are eight years of age or older and have been identified by an agency or professional as having a mental challenge or a cognitive delay as measured by formal assessment or have significant learning or vocational problems due to a cognitive delay which require specifically designed instruction.  People with functional limitations based solely on a physical, behavioral, emotional, specific learning disability, or sensory disability are not eligible. Click HERE for a printable eligibility chart.

Area Programs
New Mexico is divided into SIX GEOGRAPHICAL AREAS which operate year-round Special Olympics programs.  Each Area is administered by an Area Director and an Area Management Team, which consist of committee chairs.  The committees implement the majority of functions of an Area program which include training, games, volunteer management, fundraising, family involvement, athlete outreach, finance and public education.

Unified Sports
This initiative brings together Special Olympics athletes and individuals without intellectual disabilities who are of similar age and ability to train and compete on the same team.  The concept of combining athletes with intellectual disabilities and those without was first introduced in the mid-1980’s to promote equality and inclusion.  Unified Sports enables athletes to learn new sports, develop higher-level sports skills, and experience meaningful inclusion as each athlete is ensured of playing a valued role on the team.

The Unified Sports program also enables athletes to socialize with peers and form friendships and to participate in their communities and have choices outside of Special Olympics (many Unified Sports teams are part of city and local leagues).

Healthy Athletes

The Healthy Athletes initiative is designed to improve each athlete’s ability to train and compete in Special Olympics.  Health care professionals in communities throughout New Mexico offer vision, dental and hearing screenings, nutritional counseling, and physical therapy stretching and training protocols.  All services are provided pro bono to Special Olympics athletes at state competitions.

Would you like to be an athlete? Click HERE to learn how to join!