Get Involved as a Volunteer

Volunteers are the backbone of Special Olympics Massachusetts, helping the organization to offer sports training and competition to over 12,000 athletes and Unified partners in the state of Massachusetts on a year-round basis. This assistance ultimately helps individuals with intellectual disabilities develop into healthy and health-conscious athletes. Special Olympics Massachusetts could not operate without the tremendous support of our many dedicated volunteers.

Volunteers include students, business people, family members of athletes, corporate teams and many others. Volunteers fill a wide variety of roles within Special Olympics Massachusetts through coaching, as members of event planning committees, by fundraising, as timekeepers, officials, and special events volunteers, at local, regional, and state-wide events.

The best way to keep informed and learn about volunteer opportunities is by signing up for our VOLUNTEER NEWSLETTER. This monthly newsletter lists all current volunteer opportunities, describes current volunteers and their roles, and provides information on other Special Olympics Massachusetts programs.

Volunteer Frequently Asked Questions

What does SOMA stand for?
Special Olympics Massachusetts

What is the minimum age to volunteer?
There are volunteer opportunities for all ages, depending on your interests:

  • There is no minimum age to volunteer at an event. If a volunteer is under the age of 16, he/she must be accompanied by an adult who will volunteer alongside the minor. Many volunteer shifts are in 4 hour blocks and volunteer responsibilities require dedicated attention (such as keeping score or keeping time for a competition.) Therefore, youth volunteers must be mature enough to volunteer for the full shift – 8 years and older is often the suggested age.
  • 8 years is the minimum age to participate as a Unified partner.
  • 16 years is the minimum age to volunteer as an assistant coach and to volunteer at an event without an adult chaperone.
  • 18 years is the minimum age to volunteer as a head coach, local program coordinator, medical volunteer, and games management team volunteer.

What is a Unified partner?
Special Olympics Unified Sports® brings together all athletes with and without intellectual disabilities. Unified partners are teammates who do not have an intellectual disability. All athletes share their love for sports by training and competing on the same team. The minimum age to become a Unified partner is 8 years old.

How do I find volunteer opportunities near me?
Volunteer opportunities are year round and located throughout the entire state of Massachusetts.
Sign up for the Volunteer E-Newsletter to receive an email once a month with upcoming volunteer opportunities.
You can also view current events with volunteer opportunities at www.specialolympicsma.org/volunteer, or see local teams who have volunteer positions available here.

What is a Class A volunteer?
Class A volunteers are volunteers who volunteer one-on-one with an athlete, in a position of authority, or handle money or confidential information. These volunteers are required to complete a Class A form. The Class A form gives permission to process a national background check and a CORI background check. These volunteer positions include office volunteers, head coaches, assistant coaches, Unified partners, chaperones, medical volunteers, and games management team volunteers. Single-day event volunteers are not required to complete a Class A form.

Are there any skills or prior experience required for volunteers?
For one day event opportunities, no prior experience is required. Any necessary training will be provided at the event.
Head coaches must have prior experience in the sport that they are coaching. Prior experience is preferred but not required for those who want to be an assistant coach or Unified partner.

  • Photographers must have experience and provide their own camera.
  • Medical volunteers must have experience and have minimal certification in first aid and CPR (BLS).
  • Officials must have training and certification in their sport.

What’s the time commitment to volunteer with a local team as a head coach, assistant coach, or Unified partner?
Since these volunteer positions are all a part of the team, they are required to make a full season commitment of 3 months. Volunteers are required to attend weekly practices (most teams practice evenings or weekends) and attend the tournaments that the team will be competing in. Each team has their own schedule, so please confirm with the team that you can meet the time commitment expectations before joining the team.

What if I can’t make a long term commitment?
We host numerous single-day events throughout the year and located throughout the state. No extended commitment is required beyond the one event. You can volunteer for as many events that fit your schedule.

Can I volunteer with my family?
Yes, there are many opportunities for families to volunteer together! Families can volunteer together at an event – any child under the age of 16 will need an adult chaperone and both the child and chaperone will be assigned the same task.
Families can also get involved with local teams by volunteering in team roles such as coaches and/or Unified partners on the same local team.

Can I volunteer as a group?
Yes, events are great opportunities for families, friends, coworkers, schools, or civic groups to all volunteer together. The size of your group may depend on the specific event. For event and registration information please contact volunteer@specialolympicsma.org.

Do I have to fill out any paperwork before volunteering? What if I’ve volunteered in the past?
Yes. To volunteer at an event, you must fill out a registration application online for each event at www.specialolympicsma.org/volunteer. Coaches, Unified partners, chaperones, medical volunteers, and games management team volunteers must complete a Class A form and Protective Behaviors Quiz prior to volunteering. The Class A and Protective Behaviors Quiz is required once every 3 years.

I know of an upcoming event, but I don’t know how to sign up.
Event registration is available online at www.specialolympicsma.org/volunteer. It is highly recommended to sign up for the monthly Volunteer E-Newsletter to stay updated on when registration is available for upcoming events. If you are interested in volunteering as a large group, please email Volunteer@specialolympicsma.org for assistance with the registration process.

Do I have to sign up online for an event, or can I just show up? What if I’ve volunteered in the past?
We ask that you please sign up in advance for an event, regardless of whether or not you’ve volunteered previously.

I’m volunteering at an upcoming event. What should I bring with me?
Please wear comfortable, closed-toe shoes and dress appropriately for the weather (events can be indoor or outdoor.) If you are volunteering at an outdoor event, we highly recommend bringing sunscreen or a hat. We will provide water, but you are welcome to bring any food or snacks that you’d like.