Reading Group Guide Switch-Hitter
By Derek Jeter with Paul Mantell Prereading Assignment
Review “Derek Jeter’s Ten Life Lessons.” They are listed in the front of the book. Discussion Questions Chapter One — A New Season
Derek Jeter is about to begin a new school year. Back from a summer visiting his grandparents, Jeter is excited to start the seventh grade, but he will miss his best friend Dave Hennum, who moved to Hong Kong in June.
Staying in touch with his friend Dave over the summer was a challenge. How did Derek and his friend Dave communicate over the summer? In what ways do you stay in touch with friends or family members who don’t live nearby, or that you don’t see very often?
Derek’s father watches a baseball game between the Boston Red Sox and the Detroit Tigers, cheering for a favorite player, Kurt Carsten. During an exciting play, Carsten is injured and tagged out, and Derek’s father is upset. Define a “hamstring injury.” Why was Derek’s father so upset, and how did Derek and his father differ in their assessment of the injury? How do you feel about their debate? Explain your point of view. Chapter Two — Work and Play
Derek finds himself under a lot of pressure at the start of the new school year: he’s asked to be a team leader for the basketball team; the travel baseball team tryouts are coming up; and his new classes are a lot harder than last year. On top of all that, his nemesis, Gary Parnell, is still around making things challenging, and they must work together on a public-speaking term project.
Why did Coach Nelson select Derek as a team leader? List a few examples.
Define “debate,” then discuss the issues that debates and rebuttals present. Give an example for both words and explain your choices. Chapter Three — Back on the Hill
Derek and his friends Vijay and Avery get together to play on Jeter Hill, and Avery surprises him with the news that she will not be trying out for baseball this year.
Avery was a very good baseball player. According to Derek, she was better than most. What is keeping her from playing baseball this season?
Derek Jeter is facing a few concerns of his own. What are the issues he faces, and what are his parents’ concerns?
If you were one of Derek’s coaches or parents, what would you recommend he do to balance the workload? Discuss each recommendation as a group. Chapter Four — The Big Ask
Derek and his little sister, Sharlee, both want to play on two different after-school sports teams. All four Jeters get together to have a family discussion about the pros and cons of deciding between teams and come to a joint decision that everyone appreciates.
What were the issues the family faced, and what factors did they discuss to help them come to a joint decision?
As siblings, Derek and Sharlee each have an enthusiastic interest in sports activities. Sharlee wanted to participate in two completely different sports than the ones Derek chose. However, both had different issues that needed resolving. What were the sports activities they proposed? Define each one and list the expected requirements. What does that tell you about Derek’s and Sharlee’s individual characters? Explain. Chapter Five — The Gathering Storm
Derek Jeter is alarmed when his teacher selects Gary Parnell, the smartest kid in class, as his debate partner. Then, at basketball practice, Derek notices two new students on the team seem to be close friends already.
List the reasons why Derek was nervous about the debate assignment and his partner pairing. Discuss the issues and offer recommendations to resolve his concerns.
What was Derek’s assessment of Marcus’s and Gio’s game-playing skills, and what did he observe about their off-court behavior? Chapter Six — Trial and Triumph
Derek is nervous about the travel baseball team tryouts because there are only three slots and an alternate available. He reflects on a negative experience with a teacher about the importance of making the team.
Describe the details of the awkward incident and discuss the reaction it generated from Derek’s parents.
After tryouts, Derek was sore, exhausted, and in pain. His knees ached, his back hurt, and it was a real effort to just move around. Why was he so uncomfortable? What was his father’s advice and specific point of view? Explain what you would have done. Chapter Seven — Be a Leader
For Derek Jeter, the basketball team leader, success means playing smart and allowing his teammates to share victory to win the game. But to his teammate, Gio, success was showing off and enjoying the attention garnered from his unique jump shots.
Explain in your own words which player’s scoring strategy you feel was more beneficial for team victory.
Remembering the rebound strategy advice from Coach Nelson, Derek was able to adjust his game play to achieve an unexpected scoring triumph. It was a thrilling first victory for the Friars. What lessons did Derek learn? What lessons did Gio learn? Using a Venn diagram, compare the game skills of these two characters, listing their differences and their similarities. Chapter Eight — Follow the Leader
At the next baseball practice, before they start their exercises, Coach Russell begins the session by introducing the new members of the team, including Derek. He also asks the veteran players to introduce themselves.
Why do you think the coaches felt it was important for the team members to become familiar with one another? What were they looking for as they observed the new team running through their instructional exercises? Be specific.
During the next basketball practice, Coach Nelson warns the team about the upcoming competition. He tells them that the opposing team, St. Monica, is a perennial contender. What did the coach mean by “a perennial contender”? Why was it important for the coach to share this reminder? Chapter Nine — Guilt and Dread
After school, Derek rushes to grab his uniform from his locker and make the bus, but he trips on the stairs and turns his ankle.
Derek’s friend Vijay notices that he’s limping. What does Vijay say to Derek, and what does it mean? Discuss the quote and its origin in a small group.
Derek is nervous about his debate assignment with Gary Parnell. As he prepares his talking points, Derek is afraid that his classmates will laugh if he is not able to make his position clear. The teacher reminds them that the debates will count for a large part of their semester grade. What kind of advice did Mr. Jeter give Derek in this chapter? What advice would you have given Derek to help settle his anxiety and calm his nerves? Chapter Ten — By the Skin of Their Teeth
During the next basketball game, Coach Nelson decides to use both the starting lineup and the players on the alternate list to give everyone a chance to participate.
What was the result of this strategic decision by Coach Nelson? How did Derek and Gio react to the gameday lineup? Did his decision affect the outcome of the game?
Although Derek’s leg still hurt from his sprain, he was determined to play through the pain. He wanted to demonstrate strong team leadership skills which resulted in a tenacious defense. What was the result of Derek’s decision to ride out the pain? Do you think that Gio made the best team play choices? Discuss your opinion in a small group setting. Allow for pro and con statements. Chapter Eleven — Difficult Days
Gary and Derek decide their debate topic will be arguing for and against schools cutting athletic programming in order to focus on academics. Derek’s personal feelings on the topic allow him to bring extra enthusiasm to his debate practice, but he’s sure Gary will work just as hard against him.
What kind of debate strategy practice would work best for Derek? How did he prepare his debate points and polish his presentation delivery?
During baseball practice, Coach Russell announced that he wanted to make position changes to the lineup as an experiment. But Derek was concerned the position changes would be permanent.
What was the coach’s underlying objective for switching around the positions and batting order? What did Derek think of the experiment? Explain your observations. Chapter Twelve — The Breaking Point
During the next basketball game, Coach Nelson notices Derek limping off the court and wincing when he sits down, and he advises Derek to sit out the rest of the game.
Was this a good strategy so Derek could recover, or should he have pushed on to help the team score more? Explain your opinion. Include an alternative option in your response.
Later Derek has to tell his parents about the injury. They are disappointed to hear that he’s been nursing the pain for over a week. Derek is disappointed in himself because he has aggravated the pain, making him useless for both teams. His doctor says he needs to avoid sports altogether, so he will have to miss practices and a game.
In what ways could Derek have avoided this predicament? How would you have felt in the same situation? Chapter Thirteen — Sitting It Out
Derek finds himself on the bench as his team plays the first game of the baseball season.
What were his primary concerns and what were his regrets?
Derek’s injury will also affect his place on the Friars’ starting lineup, as well as his shortstop position on the baseball team. Though the baseball team loses their first game, Coach Russell seems to appreciate Derek’s support.
Derek wonders, if he’d been able to play, would the game’s outcome have been different? What lesson do you think Derek learned? What was the incident that caused concern for Coach Nelson? What were the results? Chapter Fourteen — Ultimate Combat
On the very last day of the debate assignments in his English class, Derek and his opponent Gary are called up. Having sat through the other teams’ presentations, Derek still isn’t sure he’s ready for his public-speaking assignment.
Reread chapter fourteen, paying close attention to the actual debate passages.
Copy Gary and JDerek’s selected debate topic. Make a list of the important points each student made in defense of their positions. Do you agree with the class assessment of the winner, or would you have voted differently? Please explain your own points of view.
What is the key factor in effective debate rebuttals, and why is the opportunity to share a rebuttal so important? Discuss the differences between Gary’s rebuttal arguments and Derek’s perspective. What did you learn from each presentation? Chapter Fifteen — The Long Road Back
After weeks of recovery, Derek is ready to start playing again, but Coach Russell is hesitant to throw him back into the full swing of their routine. He thinks Derek should acclimate back in slowly to avoid another injury. Although Derek is disappointed, he understands. He does his best to show he’s working hard, and hopefully his coach will let him play shortstop for the final game of the season.
What did Coach Russell finally decide to do, and what was the result?
When Coach Nelson announced to the rest of the basketball team that Derek was returning to play, not everyone was happy to see him. What were some of the team conflicts that Derek faced? And what were the game strategy lessons that led to their success? Discuss what happened between Derek and Gio, and why it was so important for team unity. Chapter Sixteen — Back in the Game
Finally, it’s game day, the last game of the baseball season, and Derek is more than ready to get started. Before the game, Coach Russell gives a pep talk to the team, and Derek learns he is not in the starting lineup.
How did this game day lineup make Derek feel? In which position did he want to play permanently? Do you think he would be happy playing as an alternate? Explain your answer.
Coach Russell finally gives Derek a chance to play shortstop in the third inning, when the score is tied.
Describe the fielding and batting maneuvers and the game-changing plays that allowed Derek to demonstrate his best potential. Why was this performance a timely and important opportunity? Chapter Seventeen — The Brass Ring
The basketball team’s most important game of the season is coming up. As team leader, Derek feels that he should talk to Gio about teamwork and sportsmanship before the event. He expects the discussion might be a hostile encounter, and wonders if it would be best to do this before the big game.
Reread the talk that Derek had with Gio just before the big game.
What message was he trying to convey to his teammate?
How did Derek demonstrate leadership skills?
What do you think the game outcome would have been if Derek had decided not to discuss teamwork strategy with Gio?
In a small group setting, discuss your point of view, pro or con.
Earlier in the book, Derek’s dad offered a bit of parental advice because of his son’s anxiety over preparing for his debate assignment. He said, “‘Courage isn’t about not being afraid. It’s about doing what you’re afraid of because it has to be done.
’” (Chapter nine)
In what ways can you apply this concept of courage to your own life? Are there any tasks or responsibilities that you must handle that make you apprehensive or anxious? Compose your thoughts and share a dilemma that you are facing or have dealt with in the past. What were the results and what lesson did you learn?Extension Activities The Ball’s in Your Court: An Idiom Exercise
Read chapter five, and in small groups discuss why you think this chapter is titled “The Gathering Storm.”
Define what an idiom is, and then discuss the phrase “the ball is in your court.” What does it mean? How does this idiom apply to Derek and Gio’s situation?
Allow twenty minutes for an open in-circle discussion of the phrase/idiom. Suggest students give a real-life example describing what the selected idiom may mean or implies. Provide blank cards for those students who may have a lot to share. Offer this as a timed exercise, allowing at least 30–45 minutes.
Collect the cards and select a few to read out loud. Encourage discussion, debate, and rebuttals.
Definition Options https://dictionaryblog.cambridge.org/2019/08/07/the-balls-in-your-court-now-idioms-with-ball/ https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/the%20ball%20is%20in%20one%27s%20courtPartner Debates: What Is Your Point?
Reread chapter fourteen, “Ultimate Combat.”
Have students select a debate topic of interest based on class discussion or personal interest. Topics are available in the links and resources listed below. Prepare a class debate schedule and a partner/debate opponent will be selected for each student. In some instances, an instructor may allow you to choose your own partner. It’s possible to partner in pairs as well, two against two.
After a subject and partner are approved, flip a coin to assign pro or con to each partner in the teams. Students should prepare talking points to defend their debate position. Encourage students to practice their speeches in front of family or friends and apply any advice on presentation that they may receive. Discuss rebuttal strategies before the presentations.
For further reading and debate resources, see below: https://www.splashlearn.com/blog/interesting-debate-topics-for-kids-of-all-ages/ https://noisyclassroom.com/debate-topics/ https://www.weareteachers.com/middle-school-debate-topics/Reading Group Guide written by Chrystal Carr Jeter, Children’s Literature Consultant, previously of Willoughby-Eastlake Public Library, Willoughby Hills, Ohio. This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes. For more Simon & Schuster guides and classroom materials, please visit simonandschuster.net or thebookpantry.net.