Although Rachel and Bekah Moffett are four years apart and living in different towns, their passion for baton twirling has created an inseparable bond.
Rachel, a senior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, first picked up a baton when she was 7 years old. Little did she know that would change her life.
“I had really bad ADD, and my doctor recommended me going into a sport that uses both sides of my brain, so it’s things like swimming or ice skating or gymnastics,” she said. “He suggested baton twirling, and my mom went to high school with a woman who was teaching beginner classes. From there, I started competitions, and it’s just been there ever since.”
Rachel immediately took onto the sport and developed a heartfelt passion.
“It’s a way for me to express myself, artistically, after I got older,” she said. “It was something that I found a lot of people in Tennessee didn’t really do it, but it was super cool, and I just sort of fell in love with the sport and with the art.”
She began to take lessons soon after and developed into a competitive majorette at Greenback School.
“When I was about 10 years old, I switched coaches to Pete Kerr, who taught at Greenback for a long time,” she said. “From there, me and her would just have lessons in the hallways and wherever we could find a spot outside. Some places were kind of hard to find because we weren’t always able to get a gym, so wherever we could practice is where we would go.”
Bekah began tagging along to watch her older sister practice and perform, which sparked her to follow in Rachel’s footsteps.
“I think I started when I was about 4, but mainly competitively, I started when I was 7,” Bekah said. “I really started doing it, originally, because my sister did it, but then I started developing a love for competition and just the energy you get on the floor and that boost of adrenaline. I just really enjoyed that part of, and that’s why I keep doing it.”
Rachel believes there is a common misunderstanding in how majorettes are viewed.
The sport requires athleticism, flexibility, hand-eye coordination and a major time commitment.
“A lot of times, we get compared to a dancer or a cheerleader ... and all of those sports have a certain athleticism that I feel like your average person on the street wouldn’t understand when you see them right off the bat,” Rachel said. “There’s a lot of hard work and practice hours and blood and sweat and tears that go into the sport. There’s also the, ‘Oh, my mom did that when I was younger, but it wasn’t really my thing’ attitude about it because it was sort of popular in years past, and now it’s sort of died down in popularity in certain areas, so I think that’s a big challenge.”
Similar to her sister, Bekah developed into a competitive majorette and just finished her final season on the field with the Greenback marching band.
“It’s definitely one to remember,” she said. “I’ve been twirling for Greenback for six years now and each year is different. This year, especially, I’ve gotten recognized a lot more from younger elementary students, and people have started coming up to take pictures with me. I get to start being a role model more, which I really enjoy, so that’s probably one of my favorite parts of it.”
Bekah will also attend UTC as a majorette and had the opportunity to perform Nov. 2 alongside Rachel during the school’s annual Band Day.
“It’s really fun, actually — I like twirling with my sister and all the girls on the line down there,” Bekah said. “I know it’s a little weird being that we’re the only sister pair down there and we argue a little bit more than everyone else does, but it’s good to be back twirling with her because she’s two hours away. I don’t get to see her as often, so I think that’s one of the exciting things. I like being around her.”
Even though the two have formed a competitive, sisterly rivalry over the years, both have developed a deeper connection through the sport.
“I’m also the first to say that we didn’t have the strongest sister bond growing up, we’re very much opposites in our styles of twirling and our personalities,” Rachel said. “As we’ve gotten older and the more I’ve been in college and moving away, that’s strengthened our bond as sisters. Now that we’re both older and more mature, we have a more similar twirling style and respect for each other as artists and as athletes.”
“We grew up competing with each other, so we’ve always had a competitive rivalry I guess you could say,” Bekah added. “I always wanted to try to do stuff better than her, but now she’s taking on another form of coaching for me because I’m still mainly doing competitive, she’s kind of stopped doing competitive. She mainly takes up a coaching side to me and telling me everything, how I need to fix it.”
Rachel plans to remain at UTC next year for graduate school and hopes for another year of eligibility to compete alongside Bekah at the collegiate level.
“It would mean a lot for me because we got to twirl for a little bit,” Rachel said. “I was in high school, she was in middle school, but I really didn’t appreciate it then as I know I will now. Now that I’m older, I’m like, ‘This is going to be super cool that me and her have the potential to be there.’ Having her experience all these things that I experienced, like my first game, my first pavilion, first basketball game, first practice, band camp in the summer — it’s just going to be super awesome to see her experience and see how this helps her grow as a person. UTC really changed my life in ways that I never expected. It’s an honor, and I’m so excited to see her take on this experience.”