How Angela Klingsieck became the only female gaming manager in the 2K League

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Of the 17 teams that competed in the inaugural 2K League, Jazz Gaming's Angela Klingsieck was the only female gaming manager.

Angela Klingsieck is the gaming manager for Utah Jazz Gaming. Of the 17 managers in the 2K League, she's the lone female. And her players don't seem remotely fazed.

"I don't even pay it too much mind," said center Malik Leisinger, aka "MrSlaughter01." "I mean, I interviewed with her, and she was great, so I knew coming here I'd be fine."

Tournaments in the 2K League are held at Brooklyn Studios each week. Inside its steel doors, Drake blasts through the speakers and red-and-blue lights cascade throughout. The league's inaugural championship will take place this weekend and feature Heat Check Gaming and Knicks Gaming.

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Angela Klingsieck grew up playing "Donkey Kong 64" and was drawn into "League of Legends" thanks to her brother. Now, she's managing Utah's 2K League team.

Though Klingsieck coached Utah Jazz Gaming to a 5-9 record and missed the playoffs, she saw a lot of room to grow for next season.

"It's a little bit hard to describe my performance when there's never been a semblance of an NBA 2K league ever," Klingsieck said. "I would like to think that I did everything that I could, given all the circumstances, positive and negative. I think that it was a great exploratory Year 1, and I think that it's definitely given us a lot of lessons learned to gear up for Year 2."

Before landing the job with the Jazz, Klingsieck was a quality assurance tester for Proofpoint, a cybersecurity software company. Now, the 26-year-old Klingsieck reports to director of Jazz Gaming Joshua Barney, a position she feels could be open for her one day.

"I don't see why not -- not that I'm trying to overtake my director," she said jokingly. "I love my director; he's great."

Klingsieck grew up in a military household, spending anywhere from six months to three years in a city in the U.S. or abroad before her family had to pack up and move to the next base or location. She was born in Texas and lived everywhere from Turkey and Korea to Washington and Utah.

She is expected to graduate this spring with a bachelor's in information systems from the University of Utah -- or "Gamer U." Known for its video game design program, it became the first Power 5 school to offer varsity esports scholarships for competitive gaming. Last year's team was all male, but Klingsieck was its community manager.

The 2K Combine saw a field of 72,000 applicants. Of the top 250 players selected for the qualifying stage, only one was female, and she did not make it to the 102 possible draft picks. It wasn't intentional, though -- the combine is blind, and there's no way to know a player's gender.

Her players joke that her managing style is very nurturing, between setting up travel arrangements on the road and making sure they eat. One night, when rain caused several travel delays, she bought her players cookies so they could decompress before they checked into the team hotel. Nevertheless, her players, including Leisinger, know she's not a pushover.

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Jazz Gaming finished 5-9 in the first season of the 2K League.

"Trust me," said power forward DeMar Butler, aka "Deedz." "When Angie's fed up, she puts her foot down. 'Just make sure you guys are done at 8:30 p.m. Snap, snap.'"

Klingsieck was considered an influencer in the state of Utah and was invited by Barney onto a panel at Salt Lake Gaming Con, a local convention, one summer. She kept in touch with him through Twitter, and when the managerial job opened up, she formally applied. The rest is history.

"I truly feel like a completely different person here at the end of the season than I did going into the season," she said. "I almost wish I could go back in time and pat myself on the back and say, 'You got it, girl. You're going to have some fun.'"

Here is her story, in her words:

Joining the Jazz

I was super-stoked. I remember sharing that excitement with my family, and they were super-confused because I think they've never really quite understood my gaming and esports thing. They don't really get it. But it's been a really fun adventure. I would say that in the world of sports, I am most attached to NBA for basketball. If you live in Utah, you can't not like the Utah Jazz -- it's like a sin. It was just really, really awesome to have these loves combined.

Growing up gaming

I think I gamed at a super-ultra-casual minimal level growing up. We grew up in a strict Asian household, where I think games were frowned upon and studying was the way. I actually didn't get to play very many games growing up. I think I had a Nintendo that our parents caved in once -- "Donkey Kong 64."

I think when it comes to esports, my love came with "League of Legends" -- my brother introduced me. I liked it just because I'm a fan of logical puzzles. I like strategy games, and this was a real-time strategy with a team element to the game thrown into it. I flat-out actually hated the game at first, but my brother convinced me to try once more. After that, I was hooked, and spend way too many hours on that.

I almost wish I could go back in time and pat myself on the back and say, 'You got it, girl. You're going to have some fun.'
Angela Klingsieck

Esports

In this world of gaming and esports, we had already made crazy leaps and bounds in terms of legitimizing this new competitive sport at the University of Utah. I wanted to take that a step further. College esports is wonderful, and I think it was a great proving ground to show, if we can make this happen in the small world of college esports, what can we do if we take it to industry and apply it to something that already has as many fans? And it's as far-reaching as anything the Utah jazz touches, for one. And two, the game NBA 2K is already incredibly popular.

Looking ahead to next season

We're going through a period of retrospect. I think we're going to turn over every rock and pebble that we encountered during the journey of the first season. Just see what didn't quite work and what could be improved upon, what we should stop doing, what should we start doing -- make improvements from there.

I definitely want to stay in touch with our players and see how best we can help them, and understand where the community is. I really learned a lot from my players themselves. We have a lot of natural leaders in different levels of confidence within our own team. I think helping them helped me as well.

It's just lessons learned. I think now that we've seen Season 1, that's given me a lot more confidence. To be frank, I suffer from anxiety. I've had issues with anxiety and depression all my life, so I know that was definitely something to overcome during the season. All things considered, I think that we had managed to handle it the best. Having the first experience definitely pushes it forward -- that confidence goes a long way of knowing that you've made it through a season. Then you know where you need to make improvements and everything like that.

Gender barrier in gaming

Part of toxic behavior that are barriers to females competing goes two ways. One, there's a toxic person saying something, and then the second problem is people enabling it. Maybe not necessarily everybody is toxic, but sometimes not having a defender, not having someone say, "Hey, that's cool of you to say," I think that is something else we all have to be mindful as a community of, to get over that hump.

Advice to young girls

I would say that obviously there's going to be a lot of noise. I think that there's a lot of exclusivity, whether it's intentional or not, that happens in any esport, let alone the NBA 2K community. I would encourage her to chin up, block out the noises. You're going to have bad days, and you're going to have people who put you down, and to not be a stranger, frankly. The biggest success from my past experiences in esports is, when you find girls, you group them together. I think some of us have thicker skin, and we can stand independently, and we can stand alone, but I know not everyone is built that way. I think for the bad days, you definitely want someone to lean on.

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