NextGen AAA Launches at Chelsea Piers Event with Adam Oates
It was hardly hockey weather on Wednesday night at Chelsea Piers, but that didn’t stop NextGen AAA from officially launching. NextGen AAA is an organization that focuses on kids 10 years & up. It affords them the opportunity to play hockey (one of the most expensive youth sports) and achieve academic excellence.
Unlike many other organizations that focus on one area of either athletics or academics, NextGen is a harmonious combination of the two. Students are able to receive private tutors as well as private coaching and tuition assistance for private schooling.
Creating NextGen AAA
The passion for NextGen AAA is palpable when you hear founder Dee Dee Ricks speak about her desire to create an inclusive world. She thoughtfully spoke about her own journey that started with a breast cancer diagnosis. From that major life event, she was exposed to the plight many people in America face, the lack of affordable health care. As a fighter of equality for all Americans to have affordable healthcare, her eyes are wide open to other social issues.
DeeDee is also a hockey mom. When her son defended his teammate on the ice from racial prejudice it struck her hard. She had always noticed the lack of diversity in hockey but this hit home and change needed to happen.
I asked Dee Dee what it meant to see this come to fruition and get the support of players.
“It is a dream of mine but we are just beginning,” she responded. “We really hope to change the face of ice hockey and create a more diverse environment.”
Not only does NextGen AAA provide access to continued hockey education, it provides help in continuing each players education. Players must maintain a 2.5 GPA while in the program. The goal is to receive a scholarship to play at a collegiate level and continue their education.
Adam Oates is a Key Component of NextGen AAA’s Success
Dee Dee knew it was important to get professional hockey players involved to push this cause further. She was introduced to and brought in Adam Oates, one of the “NHL 100” players named earlier this year. She spoke not only of his on-ice talent but his off-ice life.
Adam talked about what this cause means to him in his speech to the crowd. He talked about how the breaks he received helped him with making hockey his career. I asked him what being a part of NextGen AAA meant to him. I could not have expected a more thoughtful and genuine answer.
“It’s an opportunity to give something back with what I believe in, I know in my life I got some breaks or I wouldn’t have been able to continue playing,” said Oates. “To be a person that has the opportunity to give someone else a break is a great feeling.”
In addition to Ricks and Oates, former and current Devils Bryce Salvador, Travis Zajac, and Joseph Blandisi were on hand for this impressive organizations launch. I asked Travis what it was like seeing this next generation of players start their journey.
“It is great,” he replied. “Kids who maybe haven’t the best chance, and now they are going to get the teaching on and off the ice from Adam and the other mentors. I think that is going to be a big help for these kids.”