ATHLETES AS VOLUNTEERS
Allowing athletes the option to formally volunteer gives them an opportunity to continue their involvement with Special Olympics in new and challenging ways.
Many athletes report that after years of participating in Special Olympics, they feel they have a grasp of the fundamentals of how the organization works and how they might like to help provide the program as opposed to always being on the receiving side. Sometimes they help out when parents or friends volunteer, but wish that they could be given a job to do on their own. Many athletes report that they are looking for new activities and challenges.
Athlete volunteers provide a new source of reliable volunteers to help expand offerings in sports and activities in which the athletes are most interested.
When athletes serve as equals in a volunteer capacity, they provide feedback and input to Special Olympics leadership and other volunteers that makes everyone work harder and glean more satisfaction from the effort. Athletes working in volunteer roles can explain what the athlete thinks and sees at each stage of an event, and that perspective is critical to an organization that prides itself on being athlete-centered.
Special Olympics has a three-hour workshop presentation and eight one-hour volunteer management in-service modules to support this effort — resources available through Special Olympics Athlete Leadership Programs (ALPs). As an integral component of Special Olympics' dedication to empowerment and dignity, ALPs initiatives allow athletes to explore opportunities for participation in roles previously considered "non-traditional" — providing new opportunities for athletes and benefiting the movement as a whole.
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