I used to cox women for all four years I was in high school. I’m in college now and on a men’s team. In an eight or a stern loader four I have a hard time seeing things in front of me since my rowers are so much taller than women I’m used to coxing. This had led to close calls with logs floating in the water and other obstructions. HELP!
I’ve had similar problems coxing men’s eights a couple times. I’ve had a few close calls with singles and pairs because they sit directly in front of my bow so I have no idea they’re there until the coach says something and I steer around them. (Although why you’d sit right in front of an eight and stare right at them as they walk up on you instead of just moving is beyond me.)
Whenever I’m on the water, regardless of who I’m coxing, I’m never trying to look at what’s directly in front of me; instead I’m looking at everything that is 100ish meters in front of me. That way if I see something and know I can’t completely maneuver the boat out of the way in time I can say “ports, watch the log under your oars”. If I see something like another boat then I’ll obviously do whatever’s necessary to avoid them, either by using more pressure from one side or just stopping and readjusting my point. Stopping is a last resort though. I move my head to the left or right every couple of strokes just to check where I am but the key is to limit how far you move your shoulders and lean out. If I have to lean a little farther than normal I will and most of them will see you doing that and just know that you’re trying to see what’s ahead but I’ll still usually say something like “sorry guys, just checking what’s ahead…” if the boat really crashes over. If there’s a lot happening up ahead then sometimes I’ll sit up on the back of the stern for a stroke or two just to give me a broader view of where I can go. Talking to my coach and asking him what’s ahead of me when there’s a lot of traffic is also helpful on occasion.
You can’t avoid everything but you can always make an effort to try. One universal thing with my crews is that I always tell them that if they hear something, like a log bumping under the boat, just yell up to me so I can try to push it away. Same goes for if we pass really closely to a piece of debris and it’s right up against the hull (which has happened a few times). Having taller/broader rowers in front of you can be tough sometimes but there are plenty of ways to work around it as long as you communicate and pay attention.