Skylar Martin And Rebecca Watkins, And a Partnership That’s ‘Like Riding a Bike’
Skylar Martin won the first beach volleyball tournament she ever played. She won that tournament before she had ever really even practiced beach volleyball. And when she retells the story of her win, in fourth grade at a manmade beach in Emerson, Georgia, she says it so matter of fact and naturally that it would seem that she had been playing all her life and that winning a tournament was just a thing she did quite regularly.
“We ended up winning the tournament,” Martin, a freshman at Sequoyah High School who recently won the p1440 Elite event in Tavares, Florida with Rebecca Watkins, said. “So I was like ‘Oh! Volleyball is pretty fun!’”
Yes, winning a tournament on your first crack at a new sport is, indeed, pretty fun. She had seen beach volleyball on TV a few times, but nothing more than that. And then, after winning that initial tournament, she did a funny thing: She put beach on the backburner and turned to indoor for two years.
“I thought indoor would be fun and I didn’t know much about beach besides from that first tournament,” she said. “We knew a lot more people who played indoor and not beach.”
When her indoor season was finished, she’d play beach, and wouldn’t you know it, when the 12U Rox Nationals rolled around, she won again.
“I like the concept of beach being only two people and getting to do everything, including setting and hitting because in indoor I only got to pass,” she said. “I like the environment, being relaxed and not being in the gym with whistles in your ear.”
When she took to the beach regularly, so did her partner, Watkins, at that first tournament when she was in the fourth grade.
“We were like ‘Oh, that’s convenient! We should be partners!’” Martin recalled, laughing. Her partner choice was a good one, too.
Unlike Martin, who is the first in her family to play volleyball of any kind, Watkins grew up around the game. Her dad is a coach, and both her mother and brother played as well. By the time she was 13, her indoor skill set had been fairly well established, so her parents challenged her to try beach to improve her skills and foot speed.
“So I just said ‘Let’s just try beach and if I don’t like it I can always go back,’” recalled Watkins, who is a freshman at Lassiter High School in Marietta, Georgia. “But I ended up loving it so I continued playing it.”
Now her and Martin play essentially every big tournament together, winning back to back USAV National Championships, developing that type of partnership chemistry that is easy to feel and impossible to explain.
“We have a connection with each other like where we need the set or who’s going to get that ball so I’ve always played with her,” Watkins said. “I’m tall and more offensive and Skylar is defense and quicker. We connect in that way really well and we just know how to set each other up for success. Since we’ve been playing together so much, we know what to do with each other. We’ll come back from not playing together for a while and it’s like riding a bike. It’s so easy. We just know each other really well.”
Soon, funnily enough, they’ll be playing against each other. In a year, their high schools, once separated by Sequoyah being 6A and Lassiter being 7A, will be in the same class, and the partners, every now and again, will be rivals.
That’s not for some time, though. For now, they’ll continue playing, and likely winning. As routine as riding a bike.
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