Friend of the Week: Connor McGovern’s “The ABLE Games” Introduces Fitness to Those With Special Needs

April 11, 20246 min read

This week’s “Friend of the Week” is a person who didn’t compete in a competition but rather held one. Not just any competition but one that raised awareness of the benefits of fitness to an often overlooked demographic, children and adults that have special needs.

Connor McGovern is the founder and organizer of the ABLE Games which was held for the fourth-straight year in Fargo, North Dakota this past weekend, April 5-6 in the Cornerstone Bank Arena.

The ABLE Games

The first ABLE Games was held in 2021 after McGovern was contacted by close friend Kim Pladson, President and CEO of TNT Kid’s Fitness & Gymnastics, a broad-ranging nonprofit recreational program. TNT is a unique gymnastics and fitness center supporting children of all abilities to unlock potential through movement.

She asked McGovern about helping her bring more awareness and resources to people with disabilities. That was how the ABLE Games was born, thanks to McGovern’s love and involvement in fitness and how fitness was a major reason he was able to pursue his dreams and become a National Football League player.

“I couldn’t imagine a life without physical activity, so I want to make sure everybody has that opportunity,” said McGovern on the ABLE Games website. “The thrill of competing, working tirelessly toward a goal, and ultimately achieving it is an experience like no other.”

ABLE Games is the Fargo region’s first all-inclusive function fitness competition, celebrating all abilities, from the highly skilled athlete to individuals with special needs.

The ABLE Games continues to experience growth, and this success paved the way for an additional initiative known as ABLE in School. Several schools in North Dakota have adopted this program, which operates as a physical education credit. It pairs students with special needs and their peers in inclusive peer to peer workouts. Many of these students then go on to compete in the ABLE Games.

This past weekend over 200 athletes participated at the competition through eight divisions.

Due to partnerships and donations the organization was able to award five $1,000 scholarships to students.

McGovern and Pladson’s vision extends beyond the Midwest, as they actively work to bring the ABLE Games and ABLE In School to the East Coast and beyond. The goal is to make ABLE accessible to as many individuals and schools as possible, emphasizing empowerment and inclusion. 

Get to Know Connor McGovern

McGovern is no stranger to fitness and specifically CrossFit. When he played football at the University of Missouri, he trained at CrossFit Fringe and eventually interned at the gym, the same gym that Brooke Wells trained at when she attended Mizzou. Well’s twin sister, Sidney, was also a member of the Mizzou track team when McGovern was on the football team.

McGovern is an avid olympic lifter, he broke a Mizzou team record when he squatted 690 pounds — a record he has achieved six times. He’s also put up more than 500 pounds on the bench press. He’s made appearances at Wodapalooza, taking part in olympic lifting exhibitions.

The nine year NFL veteran was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. After not playing his rookie year he started five of the 15 games he played in during the 2017 season at center. He would go on to start all but one game during the 2018 season and started every game at center in 2019.

He then signed a free agent contract with the New York Jets, starting every game he appeared in. In total he has played in 102 games in his career, starting 91. He’s currently a free agent after playing the last four seasons for the Jets.

Other Notable Performances

Know a Great “Friend of the Week” Candidate?

If you’d like to submit an athlete to be considered for “Friend of the Week”, please email Patrick Clark at pc@bfriendlyfitness.com or submit through DM on the B.Friendly Fitness Instagram. For athletes to be considered, it must be for accomplishments for the preceding week (Monday-Sunday) and must be received no later than 5:00 p.m. EST the Tuesday after. Please include any verifiable results, links, and a brief explanation of why that athlete should be considered.

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Patrick Clark

Patrick is a veteran CrossFit writer and photographer with over 20 years of experience in professional and collegiate sports media. Before joining BarBend as a CrossFit writer, he worked for the Morning Chalk Up. Clark is also an Army Veteran, the proud Dog Father of two pups, a taco lover, and an avid runner.


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