Special Olympics’s leadership work drives personal and cultural change. First, we build leadership skills in athletes, so they have the opportunity to become leaders within the movement, their communities, and ultimately, teachers of inclusion. Then, through the Unified Leadership approach, athletes educate people without disabilities to improve their behaviors and practices creating more inclusive environments for all.
Athlete Leadership creates opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities to develop and demonstrate their abilities in leadership roles.
Building from sport, Unified Leadership teaches leaders of all abilities to value and learn from each other, and create environments where people with ID succeed in meaningful roles.
The Global Athlete Congress (GAC) is a platform where Special Olympics athletes lead the way to a more inclusive world. It’s a space where athlete leaders from all 7 Special Olympics Regions further develop their leadership skills, so they can take on leadership roles in Special Olympics, their communities, and their workplace.
Dustin Plunkett, Manager of Outreach and Inspirational Speaker at Special Olympics Southern California, led a Unified Leadership discussion at the 2017 World Games in Austria.
Loretta Claiborne, Chief Inspiration Officer, is a Special Olympics athlete with a global reputation as a powerful speaker for the rights of people with ID. Sports showed her a new world of achievement. Here she is speaking about the power of women in sports with Emirati competitive Ice Skater Zahra Lari during the Majilis at Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019.
Sargent Shriver, second from right, was an early advocate for empowering Athlete Leaders to be spokespeople for the movement. It was through his early investment in athletes as leaders that enabled Special Olympics International to grow from a sports organization to one advocating for change in society.
Jasmine Sharif, Special Olympics Pakistan athlete and Vice-Chair of the Global Athlete Input Council (GAIC) is active on social media and regularly submits short stories about the impact of Special Olympics.
Kester Edwards, Manager of Sport & Health at Special Olympics International, is a former competitive athlete who strives to put athletes first in everything he does. Here he and Bob Beamon, Global Ambassador, are fitting an athlete for a free pair of shoes at World Games 2019.
Hassam Zogaib, Special Olympics Paraguay athlete shared his testimony on being an athlete and a football referee at a 2016 Coaches Certificate in Paraguay.
Special Olympics District of Columbia, athlete Ricardo Thornton carries the Flame of Hope with former South African President Nelson Mandela. This 2001 event launched an ambitious campaign—led and embraced by Special Olympics athletes—aimed at expanding Special Olympics programs to neglected and isolated people with intellectual disabilities across the African continent.
Selina Ao Ieong In, former Sargent Shriver International Global Messenger (SSIGM) and current Special Olympics Macau athlete, delivers a speech during the 2014-2018 SSIGM Training in Washington, D.C.
Photo by Will Schermerhorn
Global Athlete Input Council representative from Africa and Special Olympics Botswana Athlete Leader, Brightfield Shadi speaks at the 2017 Special Olympics Unified Talks in Schladming, Austria.
Sargent Shriver International Global Messengers (SSIGMs) Nyasha Derera (left) and Renee Manfredi (right) host the Global Inclusive Health Forum at Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019.
INSPIRING WORDS FROM OUR ATHLETES
"I figured if my story could change a person's mind about another person, or especially a child's mind about another child, then it was the right thing to do."
Determined to fight for others, Haseeb is actively helping to change the perceptions and mindsets of society so everybody can follow their dreams.