Athletes as Officials
SOOPA pairs an athlete with an experienced Special Olympics official to complete the certification process through a sport’s national governing body (NGB) or international sports federation (ISF). Since SOOPA began in 1991, athletes have attained certifications through International Softball Federation (ISF), Federation Internationale de Volleyball (FIBA), International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and Federation Internationale de Natation (FINA), among others.
Expanding Their Skills
In addition to officiating Special Olympics competitions, certified athlete officials are also eligible to officiate competitions sponsored by the sports governing body through which they are accredited. The SOOPA program provides an avenue for athletes to expand their social skills, increase community involvement, and build self-esteem. In addition, since SOOPA participants are certified by a sport’s governing entity, the program creates new employment opportunities.
FIFA Gets Involved
Recently, former Fédération International Football Association (FIFA) referees and Special Olympics supporters Mario Sanchez of Chile, Javier Castrilli of Argentina, and Felipe Ramos Rizo of México conducted a football official certification in Mexico, where Special Olympics Mexico athlete Javier Soto, was certified. Soto will join six other athletes from Paraguay, Chile, and Bolivia to officiate the 2011 Copa America in Paraguay.
To learn more about SOOPA, watch this video.