Reduxx has learned that a volleyball player from California is reportedly set to become the first known male recipient of a women’s Division 1 (D1) athletic scholarship. Tate Drageset, 17, has verbally committed to the University of Washington, and, if the offer is signed next fall, he would be seizing one of only twelve D1 volleyball scholarships available for females at the University.
The announcement of Drageset’s verbal commitment to the University of Washington was made in June to much fanfare within the volleyball community, with multiple sporting magazines and social media accounts covering the verbal commitment.
Drageset has long been considered a rising star within women’s volleyball, and he was the dominant force on two USA Volleyball teams in two separate age groups that both claimed national titles last summer. He was also named an MVP at the Girls Junior National Championships earlier this year. In addition to his club volleyball accolades, he was awarded the title of the California Interscholastic Federation’s Division 5 Player of the 2022-23 Year.
But Drageset’s transgender status has reportedly been concealed from public knowledge, with coaches, parents, and opposing players being left uninformed of his biological sex ahead of games.
Now, for the first time, a source close to the situation has anonymously come forward to reveal concerns about the steady escalation of Drageset’s participation in women’s volleyball, something which has now resulted in him preparing to take a rare, all-expenses-paid athletic scholarship opportunity
If Drageset’s verbal commitment is finalized, it will result in a male seizing one of just twelve D1 scholarships intended for women’s volleyball at the University of Washington. The twelve scholarships are often spread out over the course of four years, with as few as two to three being offered per year.
The source, who is the parent of a minor player within the Southern California Volleyball Association (SCVA) community, said suspicions were raised years ago when Drageset’s performance far surpassed that of his teammates. At the time, Drageset was 12-years-old but was playing against 14-year-old females in one effort to make up for his obvious advantages.
“You could tell even back then that he was different from the girls,” the parent says. “As he got older, it became more obvious that something was off. Anytime the subject of [Drageset] would come up EVERY PARENT from any SCVA team already knew about him. Parents look around before they speak in hushed tones. Some will wait to discuss until outside the gym.”
The parent revealed that most families have been hesitant to speak out due to fears that their daughters will be penalized.
“Everyone is scared of how their child will be treated if they speak up. It’s already so competitive to get on a good club team,” the parent said. “The stealing of positions and opportunities has been infuriating and so sad when you see how it affects the girls. There is no concern for their mental health or safety after being replaced.”
Speaking to Reduxx, representatives from the Independent Council on Women’s Sports (ICONS) noted that a number of local families have become aware of Drageset’s participation in women’s volleyball, but that there had been silence from his family, who appears to be actively obscuring his status.
“We know many of the girls he’s playing against do not know that they are competing against a male. There has been no consideration from his family to tell female athletes or coaches the truth. They have not been transparent, so girls are repeatedly and unknowingly put at a disadvantage and not given the chance to opt out over increased safety risks,” Marshi Smith said.
Her colleague, Kim Jones, added: “We also know that many local families do know and they are angry that their daughters are continuously put in a position to lose to a male player in girls’ sports. They recognize it is unfair and potentially unsafe as more instances of concussion injuries inflicted by male athletes arise.”
ICONS, a non-partisan campaign group, was launched in 2021 to address the issue of male self-identification into women’s sport, with co-founders Smith and Jones both being former National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) athletes. Jones’ daughter was also one of the female swimmers forced to compete against transgender athlete Lia Thomas.
While Drageset’s transgender status appears to have been carefully concealed by his family in recent years, his mother, Stacey Drageset, reportedly commissioned a short film to be made about Tate in 2016. Titled “Trans-mission.love,” the documentary-style film was produced when Drageset was 12-years-old. While his face is not shown in the film, Drageset can be seen holding a volleyball with his first name on it, and playing volleyball on the beach in sections from the trailer.
Around the same time, Drageset’s mother took his story to the Los Angeles Times, where she revealed that she became convinced her son was transgender due to his preference for “feminine” clothing and colors as a toddler. In the article, Drageset’s parents state that they showed him an interview with Jazz Jennings at age 6 and felt their son “related” to Jennings.
Curiously, the year before Drageset’s family began touting his journey as a “trans kid,” his mother published a children’s picture book on gender identity, one which was recently named in during inquiry into age-appropriate books in Texas schools.
While identifying as a “girl,” Drageset’s athletic performance has been far and above that of his female colleagues and competitors. Earlier this year, he took home a silver medal and $2,000 prize while competing against mature professional female volleyball players at the Teqvoly World Tour.
When compared to same-height female athletes within his volleyball club, Drageset’s standing reach, vertical jump, and other key physical metrics are all more favorable, something ICONS says is unsurprising even if Drageset had been placed on “puberty blockers” at a young age.
“No male is ever going to go through female development. Their bodies are not comparable in thousands of ways. Puberty blockers do not remove predicted adult height and males have a 5 or 6 inch advantage that influences athletic performance particularly in sports like volleyball,” Kim Jones said, pointing to a literature review completed by Drs. Gregory Brown and Tommy Lundberg.
The review, released earlier this year, stated that “the current evidence suggests that male children retain sex-based advantages in body height and lean body mass which may allow for retained male athletic advantages” even when placed on hormones or puberty blockers at an early age.
Jones also points to the fact that the net in women’s volleyball is set over 7 inches lower than in men’s, not just because men on average are six inches taller, but because the male vertical jump is at least 20% higher than that of a woman of the same height.
The ICONS representatives place much of the blame on the NCAA, the governing body which regulates collegiate athletics in the United States. Following the Lia Thomas controversy in 2022, the NCAA attempted to clarify its position on transgender athletes, but just sowed more confusion amongst critics.
“Right now, the NCAA guidelines and the upcoming Biden Administration’s Title IX reinterpretations incentivize male athletes and their families to hide their sex from women and girls,” Marshi Smith says, noting that the NCAA largely does not question any athlete’s biological sex, or allow for such interrogations to occur under “discrimination” policies. She likens it to “showing someone a pile of treasure” and then leaving it unguarded, as the NCAA provides substantial financial and professional incentives for athletes.
“We’re facing a situation where women aren’t even allowed to know if they’re putting themselves at increased safety risk. It’s as if men are allowed to do what they want to women so long as they can get away with it. The message to teams across the country is that if men excel at deception or if the NCAA effectively silences women, men are allowed to compromise women’s safety, dignity, and privacy.”
Smith adds: “The only solution to provide women with fair and safe sport is to have a female-protected category with no exceptions.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: A previous version of this article mistakenly attributed a study on trans-identified male participation in women’s sport to Byron Wolter of the Center on Sport Policy and Conduct. Mr. Wolter provided editing, but the article was written by Dr. Gregory Brown of the University of Nebraska-Kearney and Dr. Tommy Lundberg of the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. The article has been updated to reflect the correction.
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