Bacon played a little of everything growing up: baseball, basketball, football, wrestling, ultimate Frisbee, cross country, indoor and outdoor track and even water polo. But he never had the opportunity to play handball and was prompted to check out the handball team at UNC by his high school football coach.
“He told me, ‘You know, you’re not really good at any one sport, but this might combine all the sports you play,’” Bacon said. “My freshman fall I did nothing – actually, I was sweet at N64. But I missed that competitive edge that I had in high school playing a lot of sports, and I found out they had a handball team. I figured, ‘Sure, I’ll go, tell Coach don’t suggest anything else, whatever.’”
Bacon went on to play handball the rest of his time at UNC. He was an All-American three out of his four years and won MVP of Collegiate National Handball Championships in 2001. He continued playing with the UNC men’s alumni team, Carolina Blue, and was a member of the U.S. men’s national team pool from 2000 to 2006. He was an alternate for the Pan-American games in 2000, and though he didn’t go, the experience playing in the national circuit motivated him to continue his involvement in the sport.
“I was really kind of shocked at how supportive my teammates were,” Bacon said. “Even though we were all competing for spots, everyone was really helpful and friendly. It was really inspirational to have that kind of support from some of the best players in the country, and I wanted to give that same kind of support back to the handball community.”
Bacon still plays for Carolina Blue and played a few games for them in a tournament hosted by the men’s team in Fetzer Hall. There were eight men’s teams in the tournament, including the UNC men’s A team and B team, Carolina Blue and Carolina Blue Heat – the men’s alumni B team. Carolina Blue won the men’s tournament. The UNC women’s team also hosted a smaller tournament.
Bacon spent most of the tournament coaching but was happy to have the opportunity to get on the court.
“It’s fun to still go out there and show what I can do,” Bacon said. “I’m 38, so I don’t know how many more of these tournaments I have left.”
Bacon took over the men's head coach position in 2008, but was unofficial assistant coach for several years prior. In 2013, he became the women's head coach as well. Already on good terms with many of the handball players, he said his coaching transition was a smooth one, but his biggest problem was learning to tone down his competitive edge.
“I kind of had to throttle my instinct to just shut someone down,” Bacon said. “Instead, try to teach them and show them how they can stop me.”
But now coaching the sport has taken precedence over playing as his number one passion.
“The challenge for me as a coach is, ‘How can I unlock Huey, who’s a sweet soccer player – how can I make Huey from soccer appear in handball,'” Bacon said. “That’s a lot of my motivation, is helping others figure that out and fall in love with the game the way I did.”
That’s exactly what he did for senior Chandler Musson, club president of the women’s handball team.
Just like Bacon in 1999, she showed up to the first practice her first year without intending to play all four years. It was just another fun thing she was going to try for one night.
She was named top goalkeeper at college nationals both her sophomore and junior years.
Musson said Bacon has been a big part of her growth both as a player and as a person. She entered as a shy and quiet first-year, but this weekend she lost her voice while yelling and encouraging her teammates during the tournament.
"That’s not something I would have done three years ago," Musson said. "I think a lot of that comes from Myles, both feeding off his energy and learning so much about the game from him.”
Junior Mackenzie Rodgers shared those sentiments. She played basketball and softball growing up, but said Bacon has helped her find that same love for handball.
“Handball has all aspects of different sports that I enjoy playing combined into one,” she said. “It’s a fast-paced game which makes it a lot of fun. Plus, I get to hit people, so that’s always fun.”
Musson said one of the most memorable moments from her playing career so far was at last year’s final game. They lost, but Bacon remained positive and encouraging from the opening whistle all the way to the team huddle at the end of the game.
“I’ll always remember the excitement he has for the game, and the enjoyment he gets out of seeing us succeed,” Musson said.
And that's ultimately what Bacon wants — to see UNC handball succeed and to see the sport grow.
“We love UNC,” Bacon said. “We love our school. We’re proud to be Tar Heels, and this program gives us another thing to be proud of."