Community and competition programs

Sharing the joy of sport at all levels

Special Olympics programming is divided into two major streams: Community Programs and Competition Programs.

Community Programs

Community programs take place at the local level. They are run by volunteer Coaches and overseen by Provincial and Territorial Chapters. Programs can include a wide range of activities, from team sports for youth and adults such as basketball, bowling, and floor hockey, all the way to play-based programs designed for children, such as Active Start and FUNdamentals.

For more information about Special Olympics Canada's activities and a full program listing, please visit our Program section.

Competition Programs

Competition begins at the local level, and depending on an athlete's interest, there are opportunities for the athlete to compete at regional, provincial/territorial, national and international levels.

  • Local and Regional Competitions - Occurring throughout the year, these may be qualifiers for Provincial Games. All athletes can take part in local competitions.
  • Provincial/Territorial Games - Each Special Olympics Canada Chapter hosts provincial/territorial Games biannually on a seasonal (Summer/Winter) basis. These Games also serve as qualifiers for National Games. Athletes must qualify to attend Provincial/Territorial Games at their local/regional competitions.
  • National Games - SOC welcomes teams of athletes from across all Provincial/Territorial Chapters every two years on a rotational basis (Summer/Winter). These Games serve as qualifier for World Games competition.
  • World Games - Special Olympics International brings together national teams of qualifying athletes from around the world every two years (Summer/Winter). What makes this International competition so compelling is that it also offers related programming like Healthy Athletes. Learn more about the next World Games, taking place in Berlin in June 2023. 

Divisioning for Competition

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. Events are structured so that athletes compete with other people of similar ability in equitable divisions.

For more information about the divisioning process for specific sports, and the Maximum Performance Rule (MPR), please visit our Official Sports and Rules section.The Maximum Performance Rule is in place to ensure athletes compete to th ebest of their ability during both the divisioning round and the final round.

For more information about competing at the international level, please visit our Team Canada page.

School Programs 

Traditional and Unified Sports programs take place in schools across the country. Starting in elementary school through to University/College, school programs provide additional opportunities for Special Olympics athletes and Unified partners to train and compete together in their day-to-day environment.


Special Olympics Canada was rooted in research.  From Dr. Hayden’s work in the early sixties to the continued findings that happen internationally, research has played a major role of the advancement and development of individuals with an intellectual disability, and the Special Olympics movement as a whole.  

Building on previous work and areas of future interest Special Olympics Canada funds a research program annually to promote and support research activities within the academic field, while striving for further ways to service the athlete population.  These research opportunities ultimately enhance athlete development and performance and can play a major role with coach development in Special Olympics.