Becoming a movement BY people with intellectual
disabilities: athlete leadership in North Carolina
Fifty years ago, Eunice Kennedy Shriver was regarded
as unconventional, and even rebellious in her efforts to
confront the discrimination and isolation experienced
by people with intellectual disabilities. Later she
insisted that people with intellectual disabilities should
not only benefit from Special Olympics, but also take
active leadership roles within the movement. Mrs.
Shriver recognized there was no one better to speak
about the impact of Special Olympics than those who
actively participated. In fact, it seemed common sense
to Mrs. Shriver that people with intellectual disabilities
who have been coached for years would want to one
day be coaches themselves; that they would want
to organize competitions, help with fundraising, and
speak on behalf of the movement and importantly,
Throughout North Carolina, Special Olympics athletes
are stepping into meaningful leadership roles both
on and off the field of play. In addition to becoming
trained and certified as coaches and officials, athletes
serve on local committees and Games Management
Teams, providing valuable insight to Special Olympics
sports training and competition.
Special Olympics NC athletes
also represent the organization
in a variety of different roles:
• Athlete Ambassadors: athletes act as representatives
for SONC at various functions to say thank you,
assist with fundraising efforts and build awareness of
• Global Messengers: athletes are trained to be
spokespersons for Special Olympics and can recruit
potential athletes, volunteers and sponsors through
• Athlete Council: active SONC athletes from across
the state who meet quarterly to provide input to
the president of Special Olympics North Carolina on
issues in the movement.
• Torch Run Athlete Ambassadors: assist in the
managing, promoting, planning and coordinating the
NC LETR activities throughout the state of North
Carolina to benefit Special Olympics.
• Health Messenger: this athlete leads and supports
their fellow teammates as they prepare for USA
Games this summer by helping them reach their
health goals so they can compete at the highest level
and live a healthy life.
To learn more about athlete leadership opportunities in North
Carolina, contact Kristine Hughes at firstname.lastname@example.org.