Mike Pickles Interview

I love it when I find people right in my own community who are doing great things. Mike Pickles is one of those gems.

I discovered Mike in one of our local restaurants, sitting on his own, studiously thinking, writing and planning in his book. Curiosity got the best of me, as it often does, so I introduced myself. Surely with all of that intense concentration he must be working on something cool. And he was :)

Mike is a local business owner with a passion for helping others. He fulfills this passion in two ways: he owns a gym where he helps other trainers grow their businesses, and he is an off ice hockey coach. In the latter capacity, he has a keen interest in building confidence in young people — both in their quest to become better hockey players, but also in their lives generally. Like I said, very cool.

Here is what Mike had to say about his work, and his life…

His Story

My speciality — hockey. It was the first sport that I ever played.
Growing up in Ontario, Bobby Orr and my dad grew up together, and played on the ice together. Bobby was a fantastic human being; very humble and a hard worker. A real person.
Mike (4 years old) with Bobby at Christmas
At an early age I was picked on, and it killed me. With a last name like mine, you are gonna get made fun of! I didn’t have the coping skills; I couldn’t handle it.
Furthermore, I was a good hockey player, but my coach was judgemental. “Puck hog” he would say. So I would get it, and I would give it away. Then I left.
What I did feel comfortable with was training and nutrition. I did weight training in high school, and more in college. This led to competing in body building. By the age of 28 or so, I was more in control of my confidence. However, I still found it hard to claim it and to be proud.

In The Gym

Athletes Combine Gym on King George Boulevard
I have been in the industry so long, I don’t understand the big box gym. My model: hire independent contract trainers.
There are trainers, young trainers, that want to be themselves. I want to take what I have learned, and educate and train young professionals to be their own boss. This involves a lot of things:
1. Be confident — in their own value, what they are worth, and what to charge
2. How to build a personal brand
3. How to be a professional
4. Not to worry about competition — there is more than enough to go around!

As A Coach

From my not-so-great growing up experiences, I have learned that I never tell people what they should do. Instead, I tell them a story to evoke emotion. Then they open up more.
My coaching goes beyond hockey: they do their homework, they clean their room … and the bigger picture is not NHL. I set them up for success in their life, and to build their confidence. Confidence will help them in school, with relationships, asking out a girl, moving forward in their hockey careers … all of it. Strength training is the avenue.
It is important to have strength in all areas of life. If you ask yourself, “why am I not comfortable with ‘x’?” Typically it is fear, being afraid, being afraid of being judged, and what people will think. If I can build your confidence, you can face your fears.
My favourite age to work with used to be 10 or 11. Now it is more like 15 or 16, where I am finding that I can have more influence and value. I have really learned the importance of long term development and long term relationship; having trust with both the kids and the parents. I create a bond and a relationship first and foremost, not just training and nutrition.
I didn’t realize the impact I have on the kids. Now I do. More than anything, I listen to what people want.

What I do today is what I didn’t have:

  • Positive Role Model
  • Believe in their Potential
  • Never Give Up on anything
  • Always do their Best

At the end of the day … Proud Of Me! Win or lose. Just realizing that there is nothing else I could have done.

MY GOAL: inspire more people to believe in their potential. Increase other peoples’ confidence. Live fearless in pursuit of their own dreams and happiness. So many people live in fear. I help others through sharing my own experience, and not be afraid myself.


Mike is the founder of Athletes Combine, a training facility dedicated to independent contract trainers who want to build their own businesses, and be their own boss. He specializes in off ice hockey development, helping kids get stronger, faster, and building their confidence level.