Divisioning

  • The fundamental difference that sets Special Olympics competitions apart from those of other sports organizations is that athletes of all ability levels are encouraged to participate, and every athlete is recognized for his or her performance. Competitions are structured so that athletes compete with other athletes of similar ability in equitable divisions.
  • An athlete’s ability is the primary factor in divisioning Special Olympics competition. The ability of an athlete or team is determined by an entry score from a prior competition or is the result of a seeding round or preliminary event at the competition itself. Other factors that are significant in establishing competitive divisions are age and gender.

Ideally, competition is enhanced when each division accommodates at least three and no more than eight competitors or teams of similar ability. In some cases, however, the number of athletes or teams within a competition will be insufficient to achieve this goal. The following procedures (see links below) describe the sequential process for creating equitable divisions and also provides guidance for managing athlete participation when factors preclude ideal divisioning.

The primary focus throughout the divisioning process should be on the competitiveness of the Special Olympics athlete. Competition Managers are entrusted with this responsibility and must meet the challenge of providing Special Olympics athletes with quality competition.