Beginning a Special Olympics Skating Program

Starting a Special Olympics program can be a rewarding experience. However, the process takes determination and dedication. Follow the steps below to begin the creation of your program. The first step is finding out if a Special Olympics program will be viable in your area.

Special Olympics and Adaptive Skating Program Benefits and How to Get Started (PDF)

  • Feasibility Study
    • Is there a demand for the program? Go to the list of Special Olympics programs for the one in your state.
      • Contact the state office for your Special Olympics local program director.
      • Discuss your proposal with that person to determine interest.

    • Do you, or will you, have a sufficient number of technically proficient volunteers? Local skating clubs and Professional Skaters Association (PSA) coaches can help you. Contact U.S. Figure Skating for a club in your area, and contact the PSA for coaches who can help.

      U.S. Figure Skating
      20 First Street
      Colorado Springs, CO 80906
      Phone: 719.635.5200
      FAX: 719.635.9548

      3006 Allegro Park Southwest
      Rochester, MN 55902
      Phone: 507.281.5122
      Fax: 507.281.5491

    • Secure Ice Time - Is there ice time available when the athletes are? Are the volunteers also available at this time? Many rinks are willing to donate ice time at "off" hours, such as daytime or during school hours. If free ice time is not available, then try to obtain a discounted fee i.e. $2.00 per skater for an hour of ice time. (The fee should also include skate rental).

  • Program Setup
    • Start small! A quality program will sell itself; it will also give you time to train additional volunteers.

    • Training School - Ask your local Special Olympics contact to help you set up a Special Olympics training school at you rink. This school will give you background information on Special Olympics as well as established coaching techniques for different levels of disabilities.

    • Obtain the necessary training materials. A suggested minimum:
      • One Winter Sports Rulebook
      • One Special Olympics Figure Skating Sport Skills Guide
      • One Special Olympics Skill Assessment Card per athlete

    • Register your coaches and volunteers. Special Olympics requires that all coaches and training volunteers be registered and submit to background checks (when asked). Contact your local Special Olympics office for the forms and procedures.

    • Competition - If your program is limited to "Level" figure skating competitions for single skaters, chances are a number of lower-ability athletes are missing a wonderful opportunity to become involved in the program. Additionally, you are missing an opportunity for less competitive skaters to participate in a state competition. The "Level" competition requires compulsory moves and a free skating program with music. By offering a "Badge Level" competition, athletes involved in a six-week skating program, as described, will also have the opportunity to participate and to compete in state competition.

      • Badge 1 consists primarily of assisted skating.
        Skaters must complete Badge 2 to participate.
        Skaters compete at the last badge level completed.
        Skaters are divided according to age as well as Badge accomplishments.
        A group consists of one judge and no more than six skaters.

      The judge will tell the skaters in the group what skill is to be performed, the skaters will then, one at a time, perform the skill. The process continues until all skills have been completed. The judge then records the placements and awards are presented. Music and costumes are not required.

    • Recruit Judges - If there is a U.S. Figure Skating club at a rink nearby, members may serve as judges. It is not necessary to use qualified judges if they are not available. Often adult skaters and high-level skaters are used. They are honored to assist and are quite good.

      If you currently have a Special Olympics figure skating program but are not using the Badge Program, consider adapting it to your program. The Badge Program is the most efficient way Special Olympics has of divisioning figure skaters into the proper competition level. The Badge Program is an excellent reward system for the skaters. Once the Special Olympics athlete has competed all 12 Badge levels, he/she is then ready to be included into non-Special Olympics badge programs at his own skating rink.