Volunteers FAQs

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What is Special Olympics?

What sports are offered by Special Olympics Northern California?

Does Special Olympics offers programs for athletes of all levels and abilities?

What volunteer opportunities are available?

How can my volunteering make a difference?

What is the minimum age for a registered volunteer?

What is the minimum age for a coach?

What is the minimum age for day-of-event volunteers?

How can I found out about volunteer opportunities in my area?

What is the volunteer registration process?

Do I need to register if I only want to volunteer at a competition or event?

What is a Unified Partner?

What is Special Olympics?

Special Olympics is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing year--round sports training and competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for individuals with intellectual disabilities by giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.

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What sports are offered by Special Olympics Northern California?

Special Olympics offers 11 sports:  Aquatics, Basketball, Bocce, Bowling, Floor Hockey, Golf, Soccer, Softball, Track & Field, Tennis and Volleyball.  Some sports may not be offered in all counties based on athlete interest and facility availability.  

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Does Special Olympics offer programs for athletes of all levels and abilities? 

Special Olympics prides itself on providing programs for all skill levels.  We create competition environments based on each athlete's abilities by creating competition groups based on preliminary scores and times.  This ensures that athletes compete based on skill, age and gender. 

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What volunteer opportunities are available?

Special Olympics volunteers come from all walks of life, income brackets and age groups.  Some bring specialized skills to their work; while others sign on to learn new things.  The important point is this: with more than four million athletes world-wide and a total of 170 million who could benefit, there's plenty of need for whatever role you'd like to play at the local, state, national or international level. For more information about volunteer opportunities and categories, please click on Become a Volunteer. 

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How can my volunteering make a difference?

Volunteering for Special Olympics Northern California can be a life-changing experience - not just for the athletes, but for volunteers as well.  Special Olympics Northern California programs promote participation and inclusion and transform the lives of people with intellectual disabilities.  And when volunteers come together with athletes with intellectual disabilities through Special Olympics, longstanding myths are dispelled, negative attitudes changed, and new opportunities to embrace and celebrate people with difference are created.

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What is the minimum age for a registered volunteer?

Registered volunteers must be at least 14 years old. Volunteers between the ages of 14-17 can be coaching assistants as well as provide event, administrative and competition support under the supervision of an adult registered volunteer.  Head coaches must be at least 18 years old.

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What is the minimum age for a coach?

Assistant coaches must be at least 14 years old.  Head coaches must be at least 18 years old.

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What is the minimum age for day-of-event volunteers?

Day-of-event volunteers must be at least 10 years old.  Volunteers ages 10 - 13 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian who is also volunteering.  Volunteers ages 14 - 17 may volunteer on their own with parent/guardian permission. All volunteers under age 18 must have a waiver signed by their parent/guardian.

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How can I find out about volunteer opportunities in my area?

Special Olympics Northern California has sports training, events and competitions throughout Northern California.  For Sports information, click here and choose your county.  For other events click here for our calendar.

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What is the volunteer registration process?

Volunteers who will have regular, close physical contact with athletes, are in a position of authority, or will have access to funds or personal information, must complete the volunteer registration process prior to volunteering and again every three years.  The registration process includes submitting an application and copy of photo ID, passing a back ground check and completing two short online training courses.  Click here for additional information about the registration process.  

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Do I need to register if I only want to volunteer at a competition or event?

In most cases, volunteers who work only at competitions or events are not required to complete the registration process. Exceptions are games/event management team members and overnight medical volunteers.

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What is a Unified Partner?

A Unified Partner is a person without an intellectual disability who partners with a Special Olympics athlete to train and compete as a team.  In Northern California, Unified teams currently train and compete in golf.

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