Definition of Divisioning

Definition of Divisioning


Special Olympics competitions provide athletes with the opportunity to demonstrate sport skills they have acquired during training. Special Olympics athletes, like all dedicated athletes, strive for their best performance at each competition. The fundamental difference which sets Special Olympics competitions apart from those of other sports organizations is that athletes of all ability levels are encouraged to participate and every athlete is recognized for his or her performance. Competitions are structured so that athletes compete with other athletes of similar ability in equitable divisions.


Ideally, a sufficient number of athletes or teams will participate at every competition so that equitable divisions of three (3) to eight (8) athletes or teams can be structured. Special Olympics suggests that all divisions be created where the variance between the highest and lowest scores within that division not differ more than 25%. This 25% statement is not a rule, but should be used as a guideline for establishing equitable divisions when the number of athletes competing is appropriate.


The procedures for divisioning have been developed to assist Competition Managers in applying the principles of fair and equitable competition to athletes of all ability levels within their competitions. Experience has shown that in some competitions, however, there will not be a sufficient number of athletes within every age, gender and ability level to structure ideal divisions. In addition, there may be other factors, such as demographic influences, which further impact the divisioning process.


The information found in this resource was designed to provide Competition Hosts with a foundation for competent decision making in these situations. The primary focus throughout the Divisioning process should be on the competitiveness of the Special Olympics athlete. Competition Hosts are entrusted with this responsibility and must meet the challenge of providing Special Olympics athletes with quality competition.


Please refer to Sport Policy 7000-200 “Divisioning” for more information and for sport-specific conditions.