One of the best parts of being an athlete is the camaraderie and friendship that you build with your teammates and fellow competitors. That bond was on full display during the 2024 ABLE Games where athletes, volunteers, and fans convened in Fargo, North Dakota for a weekend of competition, fun, and fitness.

What is The ABLE Games

The ABLE Games is a functional fitness competition where athletes with a range of fitness levels can compete. Anyone from a seasoned CrossFitter to an individual with special needs can participate. The competition is organized by TNT Kids Fitness and Gymnastics, a Fargo-based gymnastics non-profit whose mission is to “Unlock Potential through Movement by providing fitness and gymnastics programs for athletes with and without special needs.” In 2020, President & CEO Kim Pladson worked with New York Jets Center Connor McGovern to take TNT’s in-house fitness competition and expand it to include all athletes.

Beyond The Competition Floor

One of the unique aspects of the ABLE Games is how both individuals with  and without special needs have the opportunity to compete in the competition together through co-ability teams. These teams consist of a special needs athlete and a non-special needs athlete who complete multiple workouts together over the two day competition.

“The ABLE Games celebrates true inclusion,”  Dan Lynum, Executive Assistant at TNT Kids Fitness, told Greater Than the Game. “It doesn’t matter if someone looks different, talks differently, or acts differently; they are all there to reach one goal, and in order to reach that goal, they have to do it together. There are just so many amazing friendships, opportunities, and experiences that come out of the ABLE Games, and a lot of it is tied to the co-ability division.”

Lynum continued, saying that by the end of the weekend, both team members benefit from a perspective shift, and that many of the non-special needs athletes go from teammates to advocates for people with special needs in their schools, workplaces, and communities at large.

Nothing showcases this more than the friendship that was forged on the competition floor between high school football player, Gavin Olsen and athlete, Isaac Hendrickx. What started as a chance pairing at the ABLE Games has grown into an amazing friendship. During football season, Hendrickx would come out to support Olsen at his games, cheering from the crowd. Seeing the amazing relationship that the two built inspired Olsen’s teammates to get involved in the ABLE Games this year.

Another standout high-school athlete who competed in the co-ability division for a second year is Tommy Ahneman. Not only was he able to make an impact competing with his teammate Jake Peters, but he was also able to give back to the organization as a whole this year. Ahneman was the 2023-2024 Gatorade North Dakota Boys Basketball Player of the Year. As the Gatorade Player of the Year, Ahneman was given a $1,000 grant to give to the charity of his choice. He chose to give the grant to the ABLE Games to sponsor a rower for everyone to use.

“After the first year I did it, I had such a great time meeting everyone, especially Jake,” he told Greater Than The Game. “It just felt right to give them something because it meant a lot to me last year to be able to get involved.”

Ahneman encouraged others to get involved in the Games. “Just do it,” he said. “It may not seem like the most fun thing to do at the time, but as soon as you do it, you just want to keep coming back.”

Ahneman’s teammate Jake Peters echoed that sentiment

“The Able Game is so much fun. I get to see my family, my fans and have a super great team.”

To be a part of a great team in the co-ability division or to get more information on how to get involved as an athlete or volunteer, click here. 

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