A patch of bright pink sports tape with the words “Talk to Jill” written in black marker adorns boxing coach Dan Marzocco’s sparring helmet – a little inside joke between this gruff voiced, caring coach and his trainee – soon to be 12 year old, boxing dynamo, Jill Doucet of the Sooke Boxing Club. Watching Jill train, it doesn’t take long to realize that you are witnessing a powerful combination of natural talent and a passion to succeed. But we all know natural talent and passion thrive best with a healthy dose of support and encouragement, and Jill’s mom Ellen brings both in a heavy bag.
When Jill was five, her mom Ellen enrolled her son Connor and herself in Boxing at Olsen’s Gym in Victoria and enrolled Jill in a kids karate class that ran at the same time as Connors boxing class. Jill was not interested in learning karate, she would sneak down the stairs and work on the heavy bag, at the time she was too young to officially join a boxing class, but that didn’t matter to Jill, she wanted to box. So instead of karate, Jill would shadow her brother and work on the heavy bag even though she wasn’t officially in the class. It soon became clear that even at her young age, Jill had a natural rhythm and ability that could not be ignored, and a passion for boxing that would not be denied.
Eventually Ellen progressed to teaching boxing at Olsen’s, then moved to Sooke Health and Fitness teaching both an adults and kids boxing program. Both programs were a success and the Sooke Boxing Club was formed and registered with Boxing BC and in 2016, due to the growth and success of the boxing programs, began operating out of their own space at 3A 6686 Sooke Road in Sooke BC. The club is a non-profit society as Ellen wanted to ensure accessibility of the club to all and one of her primary goals with the Sooke Boxing Club is instilling a sense of community and empowering people through boxing.
Ellen was Jill’s first coach, and with Jill competing under the Sooke Boxing Club banner, Ellen was able to ensure that Jill’s best interests remained a priority, but eventually it became clear that sometimes Ellen could not be both Mom and coach at the same time, so Ellen decided to take off her Jill’s Coach hat and be Jill’s Mom. Dan was already working with Jill and had a rapport with her, so when Ellen asked Dan if he was interested in stepping into the position of being Jill’s coach, Dan accepted in spite of not being certain of how to relate to an 11 year old girl and has been enjoying the adventure of working with Jill ever since.
There is a bond between these two boxers that is almost symbiotic as both are learning and both are teaching. The learning curve for both holds more than simply an exchange of knowledge about boxing; Jill is learning to be responsible and accountable – to herself, her training, her goals and her coach, which is different when coach is not also mom. Meanwhile Dan is learning the balance between coaching through encouragement and motivation and that sometimes you just have to raise your voice to be heard and that is OK.
Both are learning how to navigate the fact that Jill’s talents as a boxer are being recognized beyond the club, so much so that it sometimes feels like everyone, both in the club and at competitions, wants to talk to Jill.
While Jill is more of a doer than a talker, this soft spoken and somewhat shy girl – outside the ring – will tell you that boxing makes her feel good and her favourite part of her training is sparring with Dan. The drill she enjoys most is probably the ‘noodle drill’ – Dan has a half of a pool noodle in each hand and Jill has to hit the noodles and make sure she isn’t hit as Dan whips them up, down and around, dodging and weaving; it’s a bit of fun while working on her focus and movement.
Jill’s boxing idol is eight time Featherweight world champion, Edmonton boxer, Jelena Mrdjenovich and Jill’s goal, or rather her intention, is to compete in the Olympics. Jill enjoys testing her technical skills in the ring at competitions and sparring the other girls in the club and is all smiles when she shares the thrill of her victories with her coach Dan who says that he considers any day where he gets to train with Jill is a great day.
Jill doesn’t just train for herself – she shares her knowledge by helping out the younger kids at Sooke Boxing Club. Taking after her mom Ellen, Jill wants to empower other young girls through boxing and is leading by example through her own journey.
When you look at Jill’s stats to date of 12 wins vs 1 loss (as of March 18th 2017), plus the fact that in February of this year, Boxing BC said that Jill is one of Boxing BC’s brightest stars, it’s not surprising that everyone wants to talk to Jill – but first you’ll have to talk to Dan.
Elizabeth Y Hall for ISN