Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Larry Ankenbrand


The purposes of this study were to determine if the selection process used to choose track and field athletes for the International Special Olympics Games follows the same guidelines as those of the Olympics and to determine if three groups (i.e. Special Olympics area directors, undergraduate students, and adapted physical education professionals) view the best athletic performance as the foremost criterion for advancement to Special Olympics international competition.

A four part questionnaire was developed to determine knowledge regarding the purpose of Special Olympics and attitudes of Special Olympics area directors, adapted physical education professionals, and undergraduate students regarding the selection of international Special Olympics athletes. Questionnaires were distributed to 114 Special Olympics area directors from the Great Lakes Region (i.e. Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio); 101 randomly selected adapted physical education professionals serving on the Adapted Physical Education Council under the auspices of the Association for Research, Administration, Professional Councils and Societies, an Association of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance; and 44 undergraduate students enrolled in an adapted physical education class at Eastern Illinois University.

One hundred fifty-seven of the 259 questionnaires distributed were returned. Of the participating sample, 43% were male and 55% were female. The mean age for all respondents was 36 years, and most had a background in physical education (39%). Twenty-five percent of the students and 67% of the professionals had been involved in Special Olympics.

Due to the competition divisioning and the opportunity for state offices, area directors, and local coaches to use subjective criteria in nominating track and field athletes for the International Special Olympics Games, it was determined that the selection process does not follow the same guidelines as those of the Olympics. Specific Special Olympics standards (i.e. times/distances in the event within a specific time frame) have not been established by Special Olympics International.

Only 38% of Special Olympics area directors viewed best athletic performance as the foremost criterion for advancement to international competition as opposed to 65% of the students and 57% of the professionals.

One hundred percent of area directors knew the purpose of Special Olympics (i.e. provide year round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic type sports for individuals with mental retardation); however, they did not agree with the best performance philosophy nor the actual Special Olympics rules regarding advancement to higher level competition (i.e. an athlete must have placed 1st, 2nd, or 3rd at the state level of competition during one year prior to international competition and/or athletes should be chosen by random selection from among 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place winners at state level competition . . . from all divisions by event). Thus, one must question if area directors actually follow Special Olympics rules regarding the selection of athletes for advancement to higher level competition.