It wasn’t that long ago that Toler Webb’s mother worried that he spent far too much time playing Pokemon.
Following Webb’s stunning performance at an international tournament, those concerns have been greatly diminished.
The 14-year-old Apex resident recently captured first place in the 2012 Pokemon World Championships held in Waikoloa, Hawaii.
For taking top honors in the Video Game Senior Division, Webb received a $3,500 college scholarship, a special trophy, a large amount of Pokemon merchandise and an automatic berth into next year’s world championship tourney in Vancouver.
All of those winnings along with the free trip to Hawaii that he enjoyed with his mother, Jennifer, adds up to a pretty impressive haul.
“It was unbelievable,” said Webb. “Hawaii was great. My mom added two days onto our trip so we had some time to relax. The whole thing was a great experience.”
Webb earned his trip to the world championships with a third-place finish in the national competition held in July in Indianapolis.
Throughout the summer, the teen spent much of his free time playing and practicing Pokemon. He played against older and more experienced opponents as a way to prepare for the tough competition he would face at both tournaments.
“I played a lot, an alarmingly large number of hours,” said Webb with a laugh. “Probably about 30 hours a week. But you have to remember it was summer and I didn’t have anything else to do.”
Eventually, his mom began to suggest that he start spending more time doing other things.
“You better believe she did,” said Webb. “She would say, ‘Why don’t you go outside and play? Why don’t you go ride your bike?’ I’d say, ‘But mom, I have to practice.’”
It seemed all that time practicing was spent in vain after Webb lost his first game in the world championships.
The defeat jarred his confidence and had him questioning whether he really deserved to compete against the world’s best players.
“I had my head down and I was staring at the floor,” said Webb. “I started thinking, ‘I didn’t practice enough. I’m so bad at this and I can’t do it.’ I was able to pull myself together at lunch. Then I won my second game and I started thinking, ‘Okay, maybe I can do this.’ When you play Pokemon, so much of it is just mental.”
Although Webb plans to compete in Vancouver next year, he is also going to step away from the game for a little bit.
A freshman at Enloe High School, he understands that he needs to set some new priorities.
“Now that I’m in high school, I really need to focus on academics,” said Webb. “I also play baseball and I want to focus on that some more. I have fun playing baseball so I’m looking forward to it. So I guess I’m taking sort of a hiatus (from Pokemon) during the winter.”
But Webb certainly isn’t walking away from the game completely. He hopes to compete in several regional tournaments leading up to the 2013 national and world championships.
“I’ve been playing Pokemon since I was four years old and I really enjoy it,” said Webb. “It is fun for me and I like the competition. But it is also much more than just competing. I like being involved in the Pokemon community.
“The people are great and everyone is so nice. You meet people from all over the world. Some are much older and some are much younger, but in the end we all have one thing in common and that’s Pokemon.”
For more information visit www.pokemon.com.