When numbers are low, some coaches are forced to jump into practices to serve as an extra body.
Lake Zurich coach Billy Pitcher does that, with a twist.
He's been practicing with his team because multiple players, including Ryan Roach, Matt Moon, Jack O'Neill, Mike Travlos, John Repplinger, Dave Brown and Brad Kruse, have gone down with injuries or illnesses in recent weeks.
But Pitcher would lace up his basketball shoes and put on his game face anyway.
"When I was coaching the freshmen at Libertyville, I started this thing where I would play every kid one time over the course of the season in a game of one-on-one," Pitcher said. "I've started to do that here now.
"I start with the shortest guys and I work my way up. The games are tough. The guys don't back down and neither do I. It's not like they're taking it easy on Coach. Last year, I did pretty well, though. I finished two games over .500. I'm off to a pretty good start this year."
Pitcher says his secret is to outwork his players in the post.
"When you're older, you've got to use your strength in the post," Pitcher said with a laugh. "You kind of just back them down."
Normally, varsity athletes don't have to take gym class during their seasons.
Lake Zurich guard Ryan Roach is a prime example as to why.
Roach isn't officially taking a gym class right now, but he's serving as an assistant as part of a leadership program at school. A couple weeks ago, he was demonstrating a basketball drill and he landed on someone's foot and sprained his ankle.
Roach has been forced to wear a boot and use crutches. He's also missed a few games, which isn't good news for the Bears. Roach averages nearly 10 points per game and is one of Lake Zurich's big threats from 3-point range.
"We're keeping our fingers crossed that Ryan will feel a lot better for the playoffs," Lake Zurich coach Billy Pitcher said. "I know he'll want to play, but I'm sure mobility will be really tough for him."
Pitcher has dealt with a rash of injuries and illnesses over the last month of the season, but there has been some good to come of it.
Junior reserve center Ryan Richman is getting more playing time to help fill in the gaps. He's playing nearly 16 minutes a game now and his 6-foot-5 frame gives Lake Zurich a nice presence in the paint.
"He pulled down 11 rebounds in a game against Mundelein," Pitcher said of Richman. "He's doing a real good job on the boards and on defense. We're working on improving his offensive skills."