High-level sports teams in universities are crucial for cultivating high-level athletes in China. Currently, coaches are the most direct managers of university (including colleges) sports teams in China, with their management styles and approaches having a direct impact on athletes’ psychology. This study focused on high-level university football teams and explored the impact of transformational leadership on athlete turnover intention. The mediating effect of the “coach–athlete relationship,” which helps establish and develop high-level university sports teams in China, was also examined. Overall, coaches with a transformational leadership style were found to have a significant effect on reducing athlete turnover intention and enhancing the coach–athlete relationship. In fact, the effect of coaches’ transformational leadership behavior on athlete turnover intention is mediated through the coach–athlete relationship.
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