As a journalist with Sports Illustrated and ABC Sports in the 1990s, Beth (Schmidt) Choat ’86 had an epiphany. Interviewing Olympians like figure skater Michelle Kwan and gymnast Shannon Miller, Choat says, “It struck me that there was this 12-year-old girl inside who wanted to read great stories about the best young female athletes in the world.”
Now an officer with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Choat satisfied her inner “tween” in 2010 with the publication of Soccerland—her debut young adult novel and the first title in her International Sports Academy series. The book, which has garnered praise from soccer icon Brandi Chastain, among others, revolves around Flora Dupre, a Maine teenager and gifted soccer player who yearns to play for the U.S. in the Olympics and World Cup.
The book was hardly a stretch for Choat, who from a young age had immersed herself in a wide variety of sports. As cross-country ski team captain at Williams she competed twice in the NCAA Div. I Championships. During her two decades as a sports writer, she also spent time at Olympic training centers in Lake Placid, N.Y., near where she grew up in the Adirondacks, and in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Increasingly frustrated by mainstream journalism, and eager to get back to an active outdoor lifestyle, she and her husband moved to Las Vegas in 2008, while she was putting the finishing touches on Soccerland. A recruiter with the Las Vegas police department encouraged Choat, who was 44 at the time, to become a police officer. She became a full-time member of the force the same month Soccerland debuted.
Thanks to the book’s commercial and critical success—it ranks as a Junior Library Guild selection and is a final nominee for a 2012-13 Truman Readers Award—Choat is busy crafting her next two books in the International Sports Academy series. These two will focus on gymnastics and figure skating and the issues surrounding both, such as pressure from parents, coaches, agents and the media; weight and body image; liking versus loving a sport; and fear of failure.
Choat hopes that the series will fill a void in the young adult literary market, in which books aimed at girls typically focus on boys, gossip and materialism. “When I was 12, I wanted to read a smart sports book with role models,” she says. “It’s ironic that I wrote the novel I wanted to read.”