SUGAR CITY, Idaho - When Sugar-Salem High School won its first football state title Nov. 17, the win solidified five years's worth of work Idaho Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Tyler Richins put into building his championship roster.
"If I've learned anything since I took over as head coach, it's (that) success isn't something that falls into your lap," Richins said. "It's taken a great deal of time and hard work to build a culture of what we want in a program. To be able to win one with this group of kids, coaching staff and school is really special."
Richins didn't have to look far to find an organization with a culture he wanted to duplicate. The high school math teacher has served in the Idaho Army National Guard since he was a junior in high school.
"I use so much of what the Army has taught me as a Soldier to teach and coach my players," he said. "The Army Values in general are a great place to start building a program. We talk constantly about duty, integrity, personal courage and selfless service and about being part of a team. That's what the Guard is: a team."
Sugar-Salem High School is located in Sugar City, Idaho, and has about 530 students. Its athletic teams compete in the Idaho High School Activities Association's 3A classification, which is for schools with 320-639 students. Richins knows more than most about winning football championships at small Idaho high schools.
Richins quarterbacked nearby Teton High School to a state title as in 1999. That team was coached by his dad, Dwight Richins, who also coached Shelley High School to four 3A state titles, most recently in 2009.
Richins got into coaching while working on his engineer degree while he studied at Idaho State University and Brigham Young University – Idaho. He found he didn't have a passion for engineering but he quickly realized he liked coaching young student-athletes. He was able to apply the math classes he took as an engineering student toward a degree in math education and history education. He is currently pursuing his master's degree at Northwest Nazarene University.
While Richins hadn't planned on following his dad into coaching, he did intend to follow him into the Idaho Army National Guard. Dwight Richins retired from the Idaho Army National Guard in 2012 as a lieutenant colonel.
"For me, the Guard was something I grew up around," he said. "My dad was a Guard officer and I got to see his passion for serving and being part of the organization. When I got to be a junior in high school, I started looking into my future and seeing where I wanted to go and what I wanted to be. The Idaho Army National Guard offered me a way to accomplish some of those goals through education benefits."
Richins's grandparents and several family friends also served in the military. He saw enlisting into the Idaho Army National Guard as a way to give back to those who had served before him.
"The Guard has treated me well," he said. "A lot of what I have, where I've been and who I've met, I can attribute to the Guard."
Richins currently serves as a 13J fire direction controller in A Battery, 1-148th Field Artillery Regiment and is a section chief. His brother, 2nd Lt. Chase Richins, also serves in the 1-148th FAR as an artillery officer.
"I'm thankful the Guard gives a guy like me a chance to serve and teach and coach," Richins said. "The Idaho Army National Guard has shaped me into who I am."