Rachel Levetzow grew up dancing and attended Southwest Missouri State, where she was on the Sugar Bears Dance Team before becoming a professional dancer. After an injury, she was told by doctors she would never dance again.
“When you wake up from surgery and ask if you can continue your dance career, and the doctors say no, that is when you find the next best option,” she said. “I’ve had good coaches and bad coaches, and my goal for every team I coach is to make sure I do my best to make them the most successful.”
The Kansas City, Missouri native is the new head coach of the Ole Miss Rebelettes dance team. Levetzow is in her second year at Ole Miss, but in her 11th year of coaching college dance teams. She previously worked at Texas Tech (one year) and Baylor University (eight years).
Levetzow joined the Ole Miss family for many reasons, including wanting to revamp the program. Her goal is to bring fans back to the program.
“I came to Ole Miss based off of a feeling more than an interest in the program,” she said. “I ran into the previous coach of the team in the airport at 4 a.m., and she offered me the job. I wasn’t interested at first, but then something in my gut kept telling me that I needed to go. I loved being in Texas where I was for the past nine years, but I just took a leap of faith.”
The hardest part about coming to Ole Miss was not picking up her life and moving to the small town of Oxford. It was learning about the SEC Conference.
“I grew up a Kansas Jayhawk fan, which used to be in the Big 8 Conference, but is now the Big 12 Conference,” she said. “Baylor is also apart of the Big 12, so I knew everything about that conference. The SEC Conference was completely foreign to me.”
Coming to Ole Miss, Levetzow had to learn what the SEC conference was – all teams, coaches, directors and commissioners.
The Rebelettes team took a year off from competition in 2017 to rebuild its dynamic and focus on the game day experience. This winter, Levetzow believes the team will be making the comeback of a lifetime and attending the Universal Dance Association National Dance Team Competition.
“We are going to nationals, but that is still not my focus for this team,” Levetzow said. “Not many dance teams in the nation, let alone the SEC, get to dance on the field during the game. We are under both athletics and the band, which gives us double the opportunity to get our faces out there.”
Levetzow said she wants Ole Miss and other SEC fans to see the team’s leadership and involvement in the community. “This team is about so much more than dance,” she said, “and I want everyone to know that.”
The Rebelettes are sometimes overshadowed by the intensity of the football and basketball games, which is why going to nationals will strongly impact the team. The team will start choreography in October and continue to practice their routines until the competition in January.
Team members will only be able to return home for five days over the six-week-long break that other Ole Miss students get. These national practices will be on top of their already tight schedule of dance practice Monday and Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., band practice Tuesday, Thursday, Friday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., and morning workouts Tuesday and Friday from 6:30 to 7:30 a.m.
Along with their practices, the Rebelettes still have schoolwork. The team had an average GPA of 3.36 last year. Team member’s career goals include medicine, business, journalism and accounting.
Senior and Rebelettes Captain Mary-Elizabeth Killian, 21, from Birmingham, Alabama said she loves working with the new coach, who has changed the attitude of the team.
“Our coach is easy to confront and is very transparent,” she said. “She congratulates us for our improvements, but also tells us more ways to continue improving.”
Killian, who has been on the team for two years, said Levetzow has been a great addition to the program. “I could not be happier for her to be our coach,” she said.
Note: Choe Mayenknecht, the author of this story, is a member of the Ole Miss Rebelettes team.