While in college at the Univerity of Missouri, New York Jets Center, Connor McGovern had an experience that would change his life forever. It didn’t come on the football field but on a competition floor at the Missouri Special Olympics.

McGovern watched in awe as a non-verbal individual was competing in a lifting competition on bench press and hit a 315 lb lift. Seeing this opened up McGovern’s mind to what people with special needs are capable of when given the right resources and support. From that moment on, McGovern knew he wanted to make a difference in the special needs community.

The ABLE Games 

In 2021, McGovern saw the opportunity to get more involved with the special needs community when he connected with Kim Pladson, the CEO and president of TNT Kid’s Fitness. TNT had been running competitions for special needs athletes for years, but the duo saw an opportunity to bring the competition to athletes from all demographics.

In 2021, the team launched the inaugural ABLE Games, a competition that hosted 150 athletes of all abilities and over two hundred volunteers. The games, which took place in Fargo, North Dakota, made history as the region’s first all-inclusive functional fitness competition. 

McGovern told Greater Than The Game that one of the best parts about being involved with the ABLE Games is seeing the reactions from the parents of the special needs athletes.

“One of the most amazing things that I get from the ABLE Games is when a parent comes to me almost in tears talking about how their son or daughter has never been able to be in this light, has never been able to go into a competition, they have never seen that kind of smile on their son or daughters face, and those are some of the most special moments.” 


The ABLE Games has also made its way into schools with a program called ABLE that brings functional fitness to PE classes across the state, with the mission of making gym class more accessible for special needs students. The long-term goal is to bring Able programming across the country.

If you want to learn more about the Able Games and how to help, click here. To check out our full interview with Connor McGovern, click the video above.

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