12 September 2023: Payton Collins and Myah Watkins pose together before their game at Delmar Stadium.
12 September 2023: Payton Collins and Myah Watkins pose together before their game at Delmar Stadium. Credit: Jimmie Aggison/ Houston Defender

Every year Houston Westside and Houston Lamar are in the mix as they compete in 6A Region III District 18. Houston Westside senior, Payton Collins, has played her entire high school career on the varsity level and has faced Houston Lamar senior, Myah Watkins, several times. On paper, these two appear to be cross-town rivals, but they’re also two best friends who love volleyball.

Watkins began to learn the sport when she was nine years old. Prior to playing volleyball, she tried soccer but found she didn’t enjoy the sport.

“I started playing club volleyball in the 8th grade,” said Watkins. “I loved it. Volleyball felt so natural to me, so I continued working to get better. I was a fine arts student, but I loved volleyball the most out of everything that I did.”

Although Collins attended a middle school that promoted fine arts, she was not interested in music, theater or chess.

“For me, it had to be a sport. I hated basketball. I hated running, so there was no track and field. I began playing volleyball in the 8th grade and I loved it,” said Collins.

These two elite competitors found a common interest in volleyball, and it served as the start of an unbreakable bond between the two for years to come.

“We were not really friends at first because we’re totally different people. Then I saw her at the club as we both played for Spike Sport and our parents became friends,” said Collins.

This bond began to grow and followed the two into high school. Watkins attended Houston Lamar, and Collins attended Houston Westside.

Watkins began playing varsity her sophomore season and credits the lessons she learned from playing club to helping her make the transition.

“Club helped me focus on technique and become a better teammate while learning how to win as a team. It also helped me become more aggressive at the right times because when I first started playing I couldn’t tell the difference,” said Watkins.

“[Watkins] is aggressive at the right times and she also knows how to keep her cool,” said Collins. “I’m the one that gets really frantic and hyped up and she’s like, ‘You’re fine, just calm down.’ She’s my level head.”

Collins began playing varsity her freshman year but also agrees club allowed her to understand the game better and make a smoother transition to the varsity level.

“In club you run a lot more drills and can focus on yourself because it’s a smaller team. It’s a lot more personal and intimate where the coaches have been coaching for years. Many have been head coaches at high schools or assistant coaches at colleges, so they know a lot when it comes to the sport,” said Collins.

“I love [Collins’] defense,” said Watkins. “She’s an impeccable defensive player. She moves, she hustles and she’s also a great all-around player. She hits the ball with so much force. She can play literally every position.”

Last season, both players received second-team, all-district for their offense, but their goal in their senior season is to receive first-team all-district.

What started out as just a fun game has grown into more than a game for these two competitors.

“Volleyball is an outlet for my emotions. My favorite part of the day is when I get to go to practice and I’m ready to slam the ball. Volleyball teaches me how to control any emotions and balance myself,” said Watkins.

“I’m really quiet outside of volleyball. I’m not really social, so volleyball is allows me to get to know people and express myself,” said Collins.

Both players are currently uncommitted but agree they would like to continue playing on the collegiate level for a team that is competitive, family-oriented, and able to help them grow. While in school Collins plans to study psychology while Watkins plans to study law.

“I want to become an intellectual property attorney,” said Watkins. “I’m really interested in protecting people’s rights. I know intellectual property is typically based on large corporations and trademarks, but minorities who already don’t have a lot of opportunities and then lose their intellectual properties are even more at a disadvantage in life, so I would like to help where I can.”

Although on the court they are both competitors, their friendship is unbreakable. Both Collins and Watkins agree the amount of work that you put in is going to show on the court, and strength training, and working on your technique doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.

About Payton Collins

Class: 2024

Position: Outside hitter and DS

Height & weight: 5-feet-3, 125 pounds

Players she studies: Skylar Fields (USC), Logan Eggleston (Pro)

Status: Uncommitted

Favorite artist: Brent Faiyaz

Favorite subject: Biology

Shout-outs: Mom, Coach King, Coach Kayle

About Myah Watkins

Class: 2024

Position: Outside hitter and DS

Height & weight: 5-feet-9, 150 pounds

Players she studies: Logan Eggleston (Pro), Madisen Skinner (University of Texas)

Status: Uncommitted

Favorite artist: Lana Del Rey

Favorite subject: AP Government

Shout-outs: Coach Alyssa, Coach Retzloff, my parents

I’m originally from Kansas. I graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in communication studies. Shortly after moving to Houston in 2007, I began doing photography. I covered cy fair sports...