Mission Statement of Athlete Leadership

“To empower athletes to develop leadership skills and utilize their voices to assume meaningful leadership roles, influence change in the Special Olympics movement, and educate communities around the world that results in positive life changes.” – Vancouver Athlete Leadership Summit 2011


The purpose of Athlete Leadership is to empower athletes to develop leadership skills and utilize their voices to assume meaningful leadership roles, influence change in the Special Olympics movement and create inclusive communities. Special Olympics Rhode Island provides training and support for athletes who desire to expand their participation in Special Olympics, both on and off the competition field. Through Athlete Leadership, athletes receive training and have opportunities to hold positions of leadership and influence.

Athlete Leadership allows Special Olympics athletes to help shape the future of the Special Olympics movement and ensure all people with intellectual disabilities have the opportunity to participate in sports training and competition that is fun and fair.  If you’d like to participate, please contact Mary-Ellen Powers.

Become an Athlete Leader:
Athlete Leadership Trainings will occur in-person and will cover a variety of topics.  Athletes must complete the following two core modules to gain a firm understanding of leadership and a framework to think of themselves as a leader who has the ability to influence others in Special Olympics and the broader community.

  1. Introduction to Athlete Leadership – athletes learn the three principals of athlete leadership, including Unified Leadership, and begin to explore what leadership roles they are interested in.
  2. Understanding Leadership – share the definition of leadership, behaviors of great leaders, and introduces six basic leadership skills that are incorporated throughout other modules.  These skills are communication, decision making, adaptability, relationship building, action focus, and continuous improvement.

Once athletes have completed the two core modules they can register for other courses such as Athlete Representative, Athlete Spokesperson/Global Messenger and Health Messenger.  

Leadership Opportunities:

Athlete University

An Athlete Leadership University is a series of courses that athletes will participate in if they wish to be or want to continue to be an Athlete Leader. Athletes will select a Major, which is the role they want to study for. The Majors are: Athlete Spokesperson (Formerly known as Global Messenger), Athlete Representative (serving on committees) or Healthy Athletes Messengers (Being a Healthy Athletes Ambassador for Special Olympics Rhode Island and for the team you participate on). There will be a total of 7 courses for each Major and they will be split up into 2 semesters. Contact Mary-Ellen Powers to learn more!

Athlete Spokesperson/Global Messenger

Athlete Spokespersons/Global Messengers are Special Olympics athletes who spread the message and vision of the movement as well as the benefits they have gained by participating in Special Olympics.  As leaders and message-bearers of the movement, Global Messengers communicate the powerful declarations of hope, acceptance, dignity and courage of Special Olympics athletes around the world.  Only athletes can effectively relate the impact the movement has had on their lives and the lives of their families.

Athletes as Members of Board of Directors

Athletes may serve as Board members for a term of three years.  Athletes are required to attend Board meetings that last from 1-2 hours and give input when appropriate.  Special Olympics athletes must submit a letter of interest and a resume of Special Olympics experience and work/life experience to Edwin Pacheco, President & CEO

Athlete Leadership Council

An open forum giving athletes a chance to discuss important topics/issues with others athletes,  share their input and utilize their voices to influence change within SORI on key topics, issues and events .

Athletes on Committees

Athletes serving on committees, such as Athlete Newsletter Committee, Games Management Teams, Fundraising Committees, Torch Run Committee and Marketing & Communications Committee to provide athlete input.

Athletes as Coaches

Special Olympics athletes can become certified coaches and coach other Special Olympics athletes. Athletes may choose a sport they have participated in or are just interested in coaching.  As with all Special Olympics coaches, these athletes must complete the coach’s education program to become certified in the sport they would like to coach.  Athlete cannot compete in the sports that they would like to help coach.