St. Paul Urban Tennis hires new head with East Side roots

Song Thao

After finding its new home at the East Side’s Eastview Recreation Center last spring, St. Paul Urban Tennis hired a new executive director, Song Thao, at the beginning of April, according to an April 2 press release.

Thao is taking over from Becky Cantellano, who ran the youth tennis program that works with youth ages five through high school for six years and recently became executive director of the Northern Division of the U.S. Tennis Association. 

Thao grew up on the East Side near Eastview Recreation Center, is a Harding High School graduate and an alumni of the St. Paul Urban Tennis program. Thao also coached as a high school student through the tennis program’s Warrior Leadership Program.

“I learned that I needed to demonstrate the values I was teaching the kids in the program. Kids are incredibly honest and when you don’t do what you ask kids to do, they’ll call you out,” Thao said in the press release of his time in the program. “Teaching SPUT values every summer made me think more about how I’m demonstrating them in my own life, especially how I conducted myself around others.”

Thao graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College in 2008 and later received his master’s of fine arts from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. 

A former education and outreach program director for InnerCity Tennis in Minneapolis, Thao was most recently a training manager for the Hmong American Partnership, which gave him experience in youth development, program development and implementation. 

In the press release, Emily Blodgett, chair of both the nonprofit’s board and its search committee, said Thao has a “perfect combination of experience, passion for kids and their growth through the sport and commitment to SPUT’s vision of becoming one of St. Paul’s premier youth development organizations.” 

She added, “If we want to embrace SPUT’s tagline of launching leaders, who better to take us there than a leader that SPUT has launched?”

On his goals for the organization, Thao said in the press release, “I imagine SPUT as a community where we develop people, players, coaches and leaders. I would like to align tennis and education in all of those areas.”


— Marjorie Otto

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