How Nerd Street’s camp nurtured Amanda Bailey’s passion for esports

by Brian Bencomo

Philadelphia teen Amanda Bailey has been gaming ever since she was very young. The Lower Merion High School junior began playing Minecraft and eventually Overwatch. Last summer, Amanda’s passion and dedication for Overwatch led her to be one of 56 teens out of over 10,000 applicants who were selected for the Esports Tower Summer Invitational at Boise State University.

Her mom, Jill Bailey, was obviously thrilled at her daughter’s selection for the elite esports training program.

“When I found out that she was only one of four girls that was selected out of 56, I was even more dazzled,” Jill told Nerd Street.

Amanda’s path to the Esports Tower program was aided in part by her participation in one of Nerd Street’s esports camps. Besides honing her skills and learning more about teamwork, Amanda, whose gamertag is Diamonddog, told Nerd Street that being part of the camp was important for her as a girl.

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“One thing and a little more personal that I learned is that I’m not alone because I met so many other female players there,” she said. “And it really made me feel that I’m not alone in this big male-dominated career field.”

Her mom was impressed by her daughter’s experience at the camp because it was about more than just gaming.

Amanda and her mom, Jill, at the Esports Tower Summer Invitational. Photo provided by Amanda Bailey

“It was a solid program of not just constant time in front of the computer gaming, but they taught them a lot about fitness, nutrition and taking care of their minds and their bodies -- other aspects of the sport besides just the gaming aspect of it,” she said.

It’s not uncommon to hear about parents being hesitant when their kids want to pursue esports and gaming as a career, but at this point, Jill said she’s all in. As an avid sports fan, Jill sees similarities between sports and esports, and that’s part of what has sold her.

“It’s still that same competitive spirit, that same focus, that same determination, all of those things translate into esports,” Jill said.

How the Philadelphia Fusion led Amanda to Nerd Street’s camp

Everyone in Amanda’s family is a sports fan. While they support the Phillies, Eagles, Flyers, Sixers and Union, Amanda has rooted for the Overwatch League’s Philadelphia Fusion.

“I grew up with the Fusion. I’ve been following them since the sixth grade and I’m in 11th grade now. I grew up with them,” she said.

Amanda, like other Fusion fans in the Philadelphia area, are sad that the team recently announced that they are rebranding and relocating to South Korea as the Seoul Infernal. If it weren’t for the Fusion, she might not have gotten as involved in esports as she is now.

Fans cheers for the Philadelphia Fusion at a homestand. Photo credit: Nerd Street

Part of the Fusion’s legacy they leave behind is the esports fandom they cultivated in Philadelphia for fans like Amanda. She first got involved with Nerd Street’s camps a few years ago through the Fusion. Jill said she would take Amanda to watch parties at local Philadelphia bars during the Fusion’s run to the Overwatch League Grand Final in 2018.

Amanda was hooked and wanted to go to esports camp.

“I learned about [the camp] through the Philadelphia Fusion now the Seoul Infernal when they posted about a summer camp with the Fusion University which ended up being the Nerd Street camp,” she said.

Besides the aforementioned lessons about teamwork and feeling she was not alone as a girl involved in gaming, participating in the camp also changed her trajectory as an Overwatch player. She initially played support, but then changed to main tank upon the advice of Fusion University player Elijah "Elk" Gallagher, who was impressed by her tank play. She has been playing tank ever since.

From high school to college esports

Amanda’s skill has gotten the attention of esports directors at several universities, including Chris "Doc" Haskell, who has been running Boise State’s esports program since 2017. Boise State is one of a handful of schools that Amanda is considering for college where she hopes to compete on an Overwatch team. Boise State had one of the best collegiate Overwatch teams in the country last year. The Broncos won the NACE Starleague Fall Finals in Overwatch at Nerd Street’s own Localhost Philadelphia.

It’s part of the reason why getting accepted into the Esports Tower Summer Invitational at Boise State last summer was perfect for Amanda, who had been involved with other Esports Tower programs.

Amanda competing at Esports Tower. Photo provided by Jill Bailey

“Being a player that was there for so long and one of honestly the best players there I wanted to sign up for the invitational, and it was at a college that I’ve been thinking a lot about going to,” she said.

While in Boise, Amanda and her mom got to hear from other colleges in attendance who had scouts checking out the players at the invitational.

“What parent doesn’t want their kid to get recruited by a Division I school?” Jill said excitedly.

Read more: Inaugural recipient of Erin A. Simon esports scholarship at University of Kentucky revealed

However, finding the right school for Amanda is more than just finding a university with a good esports program. Jill and Amanda learned from other schools in attendance at the Esports Tower invitational about opportunities they could offer, beyond just a spot on a team.

But Boise State offers something most other schools can’t -- a zoo right across campus. In case a career in esports doesn’t pan out, Amanda’s other big passion is primates.

“I would love to be a primatologist and take care of them and work at a zoo,” Amanda said.

She said one of her questions for prospective colleges is often “How close is the nearest ACA-accredited zoo.”

Wherever Amanda ends up going, the sky’s the limit for this talented teen.

Lead photo provided by Amanda Bailey

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