Hammer Named Head Coach of Twin City Union
PLAYER/COACH: Olympia Native Will Play and Coach Inaugural Season for Men’s Team
By Matt Baide
Twin City Union first head men’s soccer coach has been in the sport on both sides of the Atlantic.
Nikolai Hammer, the coach for Union’s first men’s season, is an Olympia native and has years of soccer experience. He played college soccer at Furman University in South Carolina, played at the semi pro level in the Premier Development League and had some exposure with English Premier League squads Aston Villa and Blackburn.
“Some of the guys who I played with up here went to college in the Carolinas, so I was actually able to play against some of those guys and now some of my buddies are playing at New York FC, who I grew up with playing in Seattle and Florida,” Hammer said. “So it’s a really cool cycle you see these players come through. It’s a small world.”
After spending time on the East Coast and in Europe, Hammer was ready to come home to take on a new opportunity — and see how his favorite sport has grown over the year.
“Honestly, I missed the weather. Florida’s too hot for me; I don’t think I ever acclimated,” Hammer said. “At the same time, I just wanted to feel that home nostalgia again and see where soccer’s developed here and where it hasn’t. I think I’m in a good area where it’s beginning to develop at a high rate, and that’s why I like to be plugged in right here.”
Hammer will coach and play for the men’s team, a different role than he’s used to having on the soccer field.
“I love being super involved, if I’m at a club where I can be a player and a coach and I can sit here and help out with some of the marketing stuff,” Hammer said. “I’m going to tell you I’m going to do every single one of it because it’s soccer. Anything involved with soccer, I love it.”
Hammer usually plays forward, but thinks he would like to play center back to be a leading presence on the back line of the team.
On the field, Hammer said he most likes to mimic the style of current Everton forward Wayne Rooney.
“Hard-nosed, and that’s kind of where my attributes came from — hard work more than technical ability,” Hammer said. “I think I kind of had to work more on the technical stuff.”
After being away for 10 years, Hammer was shocked at how much soccer has grown in the area. The Western Washington Premier League will be new territory for Hammer, who’s returning home after a decade.
“New teams are sprouting up right and left,” Hammer said. “At the moment, I don’t know too much about the style and level of play we’re going to experience, but I do know that we’re going to be pushed to our extremes.”
It’s the first season of the WWPL, and Hammer hopes his team will compete while building for the future.
“It’s really going to be an overall picture on building our core group of guys and really training their staff and really getting that feel for a club, instead of just a couple teams,” Hammer said. “I think that’s the big-term goal and the long-term. The short term obviously is to show that we’re here and making a presence.”
The team has hosted a pair of tryouts and is building a roster, hoping to put experienced players around some younger local players to keep the team strong for years to come.
The team has already drawn interested players from Everett and Olympia, Hammer said.
“Some of these guys are high school players, too, and so that little transition from high school to summer is kind of difficult for us because we’re not going to have five or six of the guys until a couple weeks until some of our games,” he said. “So what we’re really working on is trying to build from our youth.”
Part of the inaugural season will be introducing local players to the level of competition in the WWPL.
“Everyone wants to win every game but I think we can really celebrate our small wins, meaning what have we done in the community, what have we done to build towards our ultimate goal of becoming a well-known club in the area,” Hammer said. “So if we celebrate our small wins then I don’t really think we’re going to pay too much attention to our losses or anything like that.”
The team hopes to have more than just soccer at its games. TCU will try to provide a fun stadium experience as well as a good product on the field.
“It’s going to be a lot different from our previous years, especially because we are now in a position where we can get some VIP sections out here and really put together cool packages for ticketing,” Hammer said. “We’re working on mascots right now and we’re getting kids zones and activity zones right now, it’s going to be a huge event.”
The team has 11 home games, including three doubleheaders with the TCU women’s team, so fans will have plenty of opportunity to check out the experience.
Twin City Union opens the season on Saturday, April 28, in Salem, Ore., against the Portland Timbers U23 team. Hammer said the team will be working on training and conditioning to prepare to play 90 minutes with high-level competition.
“If we can get at least 12 or 13 of our guys on that kind of fitness, then we’re going to be OK. We can outwork players and teams and stuff like that, with a huge emphasis on fitness,” Hammer said. “It will be nice to set the tone for our season that way. Some of these guys don’t know what high level soccer is and that’s OK. We’re going to be able to see it first hand with a great club and hopefully some of these guys will take from it for our season and we’ll build from there.”
Note: Learn more about Twin City Union’s men’s and women’s teams here.