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INTERVIEW SERIES: (FTEC FOUNDER) Jen Huggins

Updated: Nov 23, 2019




Q: At the age of 14 you had an injury that changed the outcome of your future, how did you overcome this adversity? Was their anything you wish could have happened differently? 

A: it actually created the person that you see today because it definitely was a challenge for me because of the fact that everything that I had in sight  was just right in front of me, i didn't have any other goals, I didn't have anything else in life that i aspired to be other than an Olympic level Figure Skater. I didn't have friends , i had a very small family , but what it did was it opened up my world ,  i guess the saying great things come from adversity is true , and the adversity it led to my world just opening up to being basically unlimited. 

Tucker: It really shows that from Fight to End Cancer (FTEC), Kingsway Boxing, President of Boxing Ontario.

It really created a monster , because only going from having one thing, I now want everything,  I won't say no to anything, which can be a problem but at the same time it opens up my opportunities being everything and anything. Could I have wished anything happened differently? No , I mean it definitely could have happened earlier I guess - I actually wish it happened earlier

Tucker: Really? So that you could have done more at that time?

Maybe that, but also when it happened it was a really tough time. 14 years old is right when your already struggling as a normal teenager , so struggling as a teenager who didn't really have a life built for myself yet, made it even harder. I don't wish anything happened differently I just wish it happened sooner maybe.

Tucker: Do you ever find yourself getting back on the Skates? 

Yeah I'm still performing, originally I was going to be working with Disney on Ice and right at that time I got set up with some magicians, I was 18 - 19 years old. I started preforming with the magicians - I'm actually on tour right now - so I still preform with my figure skates but on stage. I use these skate picks, they are like roller blades but they are actually figure skates so I still get to preform. 

Tucker: Do you still get to do some of the same tricks and stuff? 

Not as good as on ice , the stage is a lot smaller than an ice rink , so i can definitely do a lot of the things and it looks cool , but its not necessarily as cool as it would have been if I'd gotten to the Olympics. 


Q: How has boxing affected you?

A: Loaded question, its definitely made me stronger, made me more adaptable, I dunno if that's the right word but I adapt to things a lot better. That's what boxing represents is everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face , and what i take from that is different than what the general public would take from that. I think when you hear that word most people say "okay I had a plan and I got punched in the face, all my plans are finished" I think that my life revolves around getting punched in the face, I had a great plan in figure skating until I was 14, got "punched in the face" ended up with a neck injury. In boxing people have a plan, and when you get punched in the face it can reset them. In my  face what it does is, I always tell my boxers that your going to get punched in the face don't let it reset your plan. You had a plan, you already got punched in the face you gotta make use of that moment. So if you watch a boxer coming in for a big combination, gets a jab and they just back off, in my outlook of that actually represents is you already got punched in the face, now the guys open so keep going come and do what you came to do in the first place, don't change everything. So that's kind of what it represents to me and that's kind how boxing's taught me

I don't think people really understand what the representation of what boxing represents - or just martial arts in general. I think that if you don't understand that there's always a different path and that's again how my life started off with the figure skating at 14, I only saw that one path but there is always a different path, sometimes those paths are a lot more interesting a lot more effective.

Tucker: Right now you have to focus on you, after everything you've been through, and gone through its all about you right now.

Its funny cause all about me is really all about everyone else. I find that everything im doing even though it looks like its about me every single outcome - like at the boxing gym its about what I can give to the kids, my Fight to End Cancer is about what i can give to the industry of fighting cancer and to the community  and my boxing  refereeing is what i can provide to the sport. The athletes actually are giving me a livelihood and not just financially but they give me a purpose. Its a great feeling to have purpose so rather than it being about me its about purpose.

Tucker: So basically everything is just selfless? 

It really should be, I think that when people say it but when we do it its a totally different outcome. Its pretty cool and inspiring and that's what keeps me going. 


Q: What inspired you to start Fight to End Cancer? What went into starting Fight to End Cancer?

A: Community, in the sense of the fact I was starting to feel really guilty that my business was doing well. Kingsway boxing was in 5 years of business and usually you hear everyone say the first 5 years are difficult, the first 10 years can end your company. I was in the first 5 years and things were going well - I wasn't rolling in the dough but I was in business and I was paying rent, my people and myself, and I realized something feels off. I feel almost guilty that my clients are keeping me in business, I'm taking taking taking and I didn't feel like I was giving enough back. At the time I had someone  who was fighting cancer, and they were really influential in my life and watching the affects on her and the family was the first time id ever see that first hand. I've heard about people fighting cancer, I've known people who fought cancer, but I never watched it first hand. That really affected me and that combined with wanting to give back to the community and stop taking so much, combined with the fact I used to hide when I was preforming around the world, as a magicians assistant, dancing still. I was doing the boxing stuff and refereeing but I was actually embarrassed of it. I was always worried that people in boxing wouldn't take me seriously if they found out I was a dancer or if they found out more of my accomplishments were in the sport of figure skating than as a boxer. I was always scared that they'd find that out, and then I realized I need to do something that let me be real and not have to lie, because i used to lie when I was on stage with the magician - I wasn't a boxer and they didn't know about that life. When I was in the boxing world I wasn't a figure skater, I wasn't a dancer, I was just in boxing.

Tucker:  It was basically keeping them separate?

Keeping it really separate , everything was separate so I felt like I was living a lie, so it was my opportunity  to bring it all together and give back to the community. So it actually came together almost out of guilt, but it came together in a way that now its really grown. It didn't start of what it is now, we're 9 years in now and it basically started from adversity as well, and is growing into something that really does give back. 

Tucker: Its pretty amazing, even when I go shopping I see FTEC in Tip Top Tailors, its nice to see FTEC isnt just supporting cancer, its supporting everyone.

That's just it, its not supporting just cancer research, its supporting the community, its supporting the people who have either lost people to cancer who are continuing to fight cancer or have recovered or survived cancer. But at the same time its a community, it has less to do with fighting cancer , and more to do with the community. 

Tucker: I love it, I love how you do everything

Its fun, that's what makes it possible to do everything cause everyone is now involved with the same things. 


Q: What goes into each event?

A: A lot, so the event itself is more of a combination of everything that happens throughout the year. For example there is a wine company called Vieni Estates they wanted to honor their founder through a blend called "Founders Blend". Throughout the year have dedicated their "Founders Blend" to Fight to End Cancer, and every bottle that's sold in the LCBO or at their vineyard 10% goes to FTEC and to fighting cancer. 

There's stuff like that throughout the year, and you'll see stories like that in the FTEC magazine and website. 

https://fighttoendcancer.com/2018/honouring-a-legacy-a-fight-to-end-cancer-family-affair-featuring-vinni-estates/

Everybody who is part of FTEC is fighting throughout the year, the event itself is basically a celebration of what we do all  year and a celebration of what people do to contribute to the community. Again its not about me, its about everybody else's story, its about what does your FTEC mean, just like Kimurawear is fighting to end cancer with us their our official fight brand, its the official equipment of the FTEC and keeps our fighters safe and keeps the community safe. At the same time this is your fight instead of it being like a sponsorship, everybody is profiting. 

Tucker: You see a lot of these fighters and familiar faces coming back and they are still promoting it and apart of it

Their a family. Its really taught me to not ever feel competitive with anybody- I'm a competitive person , so rather than getting competitive with a person I bring them into what we do, and see them succeed because their success is our success. 


Q: What made you want to become a referee and judge?

A: I didn't want to become a referee and judge. I hated  referees and judges, I hated them from boxing, and I hated them from figure skating. What they represented was somebody who just basically watched and made all the decisions without even knowing how to do the sport of figure skating, it really just felt like they didn't know what skating was and they just judged me on it. In boxing there's a lot controversy around the judging result at least 50% of the room will be angry at the judges or referee, so its not something you go into and be like " I want to be that person that half the room hates". Its actually an opportunity that came my way Id just opened Kingsway Boxing and I didn't have the time to put into competing anymore and I didn't have the fighters to continue in the competitive end of boxing. It took me sometime to build the business so i could pay rent. When I had my gym certified by Boxing Ontario the person who came to do that mentioned since I didn't have time to compete any more or was still trying to build my fight team, why don't you get in and start judging or refereeing? I said I'd try it out and I remembered  all the judges from figure skating  they used to come wearing dress suits and heels. My first time showing up to a competition, a fight, I walked in wearing heels and dress pants and looked around and nobody else was wearing heels and dress pants, it was really uncomfortable for me. Being the competitive person I am though I wanted to make it my own and contribute to it in the way I knew that judges from other sports always contributed. I wanted the coaches and the boxers to look at me as a support figure, not just someone who is just judging them. That's kinda what inspired me and now that's what its become, I want to be approachable, I want to be sure I can always justify my decisions in a way that's transparent. I'm doing it because its right and it contributes back to the sport , they all say without officials you're just practicing and its true. I hope that I can inspire this direction where we are working with the athletes  rather than just being above them. 

Q: What made you want to be a stage performer? 

A:  I started off on stage, essentially in figure skating when your competing you're already preforming, it taught me this really hard skill of being fake. Your on the ice and you might want to cry and a lot of times I wanted to throw up - I was a very anxious performer, I was pretty nervous. I would physically feel ill  and I ended up never loving it, but I was always preforming so I learned how to smile even when I wanted to throw up, I was always preforming. What I didn't realize and hated about figure skating was I hated the pressure and the type of pressure that I was getting. Pressure is okay but to feel like when you fail you are defeated, its a really negative pressure. I think that's what I learned in boxing Defeat is Not an Option, you're going to fail, you're going to lose competitions, but you are not going to be defeated and I never knew that as a kid or knew that in skating. I still loved the preforming but I hated the defeat, that was something I didn't know how to digest so when I quit skating I realized I still love performing and that's when I wound up back on stage with the magic - I love it, I love every second of it. The cool thing with the magic is I'm not the feature performer, there's only 1 or 2 time I'm on the stage by myself performing, the rest of it is im there to support somebody else my magician is the main performer. It gives me the comfort knowing its not about me, everything else I built relies on me, this doesn't.    


Q: What was the experience like in Siberia at The AIBA Women's World Boxing Championship Ulan-Ude 2019? 

A: It was surreal. I think the 3 days it took for me to get to Siberia took a lot out of me, it was far I have a hard time sleeping on airplanes on a good day. So when I got off the plane, I was really tired I thought I have one day off to go back to the hotel and catch up on rest, there's a 12 hour difference from Canada, Siberia is 12 hours ahead of us so you loose a full day. So we got to the hotel and they said "you've got 5 minutes we're taking you to the venue for the opening ceremonies" What they didn't tell me was that I was going to be representing International Referees and Judges for the world at the Wold Championships and had me on stage to do the  opening Ceremonies, the officials Cree. It was the funniest experience they took officials Cree in Russian and google translated it to English so there was still these Russian characters on it, and as I'm reading it I'm trying to keep my composure as I'm nervous in front of everybody. I'm used to being on stage in front of a lot of people but at the same time it was unexpected. I'm usually prepared for it , but it was a first time being surprised like that. That was a surreal start to it, the event itself I have done about 5 World Championships now, maybe more its always a new and incredible experience and I always feel fortunate to have the opportunity to be at that level. I know how much the athletes worked and only a very small fraction of athletes make it to that level, so to make it as an official- fortunate doesn't really describe the feeling I feel. Its a huge honor, I did the best I could do - and I did it really well. Except finally you have to keep the concentration and when you tired it takes a lot out of you, it can keep you upside down literally with your timing. I think that that's something that was really difficult. but you learn how much more important everyone else outcome is over top of your own comfort so it all feeds into the whole concept of it being what your there for, reminding yourself how important it is to other people

Tucker: It kinda fuels you in a sense?

 100%, when I got back I went right on tour for magic, I'm actually on schedule now to go to Australia in December for the Olympic qualifiers in Australia, and then I come back and do the Olympic Qualifiers in Canada, I'm basically gone for 3 months. I love it, i feel at home when I'm on the road, every place I go feels like home. 


Q: What did it mean to be selected to represent the International Referees and Judges Oath in the opening Ceremonies for the 2019 Ulan-Ude Women’s World Boxing Championships? 

A: It was a surprise to be selected. I don't know how they came to that selection especially since I'm a Canadian in Russia, I would have expected they use a Russian. I don't know how they came to that decision, but it turned out to be an incredible experience and I'm very honored for it. 

Tucker: To be able to see that, and be able to say "hey I know her that's Jennifer Huggins"it was very surreal

Its a very small world and we all have to contribute to the sport, its weird I used to shy away from being the forefront and finally with Fight to End Cancer I had to learn to actually allow myself to be honest and out there. I think that it just works well with the times as well as I think they are trying to put woman in the forefront of things and it just the timings worked out, and its actually a good time to be a woman in sport.

Tucker: Its also cool to see someone like you who's worked so hard, gone through so much adversity ,and someone who is so selfless, its rewarding to see and we know how hard you work here at Kimurawear.

Its funny I know I work hard but it doesn't ever feel like it, I'm very busy but i always feel like there's more time to do more. 


Q: What is it like refereeing at an international level? 

A:  There's a lot of pressure with it because you want to do a good job to make sure your supervisors are happy with the performance that you are doing as a referee, but you also have to make sure you're executing the rules, and fairness in the ring - or as a judge outside of the ring for the athletes .This is the most important day of their lives and your putting it in your hands to make that decision or to do a good job, so the pressure is always 100% there. When I said earlier that I used to feel sick from the pressure, it wasn't the pressure but the idea of defeat and considering the fact that I don't have that in front of me Its not something I'm dealing with anymore. I thrive off of that pressure because I want to make sure that I am, the right person for that, they chose me to do that so I want to make sure that I prove them right for that job.


Fight to End Cancer Magazine

https://indd.adobe.com/view/a390f4a8-f292-4115-8e91-88ff7b3510fd

Kingsway Boxing Club

https://kingswayboxingclub.com


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